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    Tribute to Oscar Niemeyer

    Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer died last week at the age of 104. Widely regarded as one of the most influencial architects of the 20th century, he is best known for his work on the civic buildings of the Brazilian capital Brasilia.

    The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum Designed by Niemeyer

    The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro

    Niemeyer, full name Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907. He graduated with a BA in architecture from Rio’s National School of Fine Arts in 1934, and went on to work at his father’s typography house. He also worked as a draftsmen in an architectural studio, even though they could not pay him, where he worked with Lucio Costa who he would later collaborate with on the Brasilia project and who created the plan for the layout of the city.

    In 1940 Niemeyer was commissioned to design a series of buildings in a new suburb that was being built in Pampulha, a residential area of Belo Horizonte. The Saint Francis of Assisi church is the best known building of the complex, and was considered revolutionary with its bold use of reinforced concrete. It was controversial however, and although it eventually became the first modern listed building in Brazil, the church was not consecrated until 1959, with the archbishop of Belo Horizonte Antonio dos Santos Cabral describing it as “the devil’s bomb shelter”.

    The Cathedral of Brasilia

    The Cathedral of Brasilia

    Building on the success in Pampulha, Niemeyer went on to design many prominent buildings in Brazil throughout the 1940’s and early 1950’s. In 1956 new Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek asked Niemeyer to help him with an audacious project, to build a new capital city for Brazil. He designed a large number of buildings for the city including the national congress of Brazil and the presidential residence, but the most famous is the Cathedral of Brasilia (pictured above), a hyperboloid structure utilising 16 concrete columns weighing 90 tons each.

    After his death on December 5th, tributes came from far and wide. The BBC’s obituary called him “one of the most innovative and daring architects of the last 60 years”, whilst noting he “built some of the world’s most striking buildings – monumental, curving concrete and glass structures which almost defy description”.

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