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drops ISSN 2175-6716


Leia o artigo do historiador e crítico inglês William J. R. Curtis publicado originalmente no "Guardian" quando da morte de Oscar Niemeyer

how to quote

CURTIS, William J.R.. Oscar Niemeyer R.I.P.. Drops, São Paulo, year 13, n. 063.01, Vitruvius, dec. 2012 <>.

To say that Oscar Niemeyer was a living legend would be an understatement. His life spanned over a century of world history and his career took him in and out of the ‘third world’ and the more advanced industrial nations. Niemeyer leaves behind him roughly six hundred projects in places as far apart as Rio de Janeiro and Algeria, Pampulha and Paris, and several of these can be counted as masterpieces, one thinks in particular of the Casino at Pampulha (1943) and the House in Canoas (1952) which combined the rigour of modern structure with fluidity of space and form, and sensitivity to nature. Niemeyer belonged to what is sometimes called the ‘second generation’ of modern architects, meaning that he inherited and transformed the discoveries of pioneers such as Le Corbusier and  Mies van der Rohe to deal with the realities of rapid modernisation in his own country, Brasil. He worked alongside Lucio Costa and Le Corbusier on the project for the Ministry of Education in Rio de Janeiro in 1936, one of the first skyscrapers to be fitted out with sun shading louvers, and a building which seems as fresh today as the day it was built. He subsequently developed an architecture which worked at all scales from that of the individual house to that of the monumental ensemble: his contributions to the new national capital of Brasilia designed in the 1950s and 1960s (basic plan by Lucio Costa) such as the Presidential  ‘Palacio da Alvorada’ ( ‘Palace of Dawn’), show that he could handle questions of monumentality and state representation with great elegance.

While modern and progressive in tone, Niemeyer’s architecture absorbed lessons from the past and from nature. His biomorphic forms were inspired in part by Picasso and Arp, but also by the Baroque inheritance in Brasil .He developed a style which abstracted the shapes of the meandering rivers and contours of the tropical landscape, and those of the female figure. His architecture combined sensual curves, rich materials, and movement through layers of space. His buildings resemble filters through which air may pass while heat and glare are excluded by screens. In Niemeyer’s ‘utopia’, man was supposedly to achieve harmony with nature through the liberation of space and the use of new technology – a position which expressed almost unconsciously Brasilian national myths of progress and identity. A Communist who built houses for the rich, a cathedral, social housing and buildings for numerous state bureaucracies, Niemeyer was anything but ideologically consistent. The worlds for which he built have passed away but his buildings remain in all their intriguing richness. Towards the end he was sometimes guilty of an empty formalism and self caricature. But his vast oeuvre includes numerous examples of his fecund spatial imagination and skill in solving tasks at all scales. It is like an open book of architectural lessons and principles. More than a collection of buildings, Niemeyer leaves behind him a creative universe which is liable to influence others for a long time to come.


Original publication: Guardian, London, 06 dec. 2012.

R.I.P. is an abbreviation for “requiescat in pace” (Latin), translation to English as "rest in peace".

about the author

William J.R. Curtis, historian, critic, author of Modern Architecture Since 1900.




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