(The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003, designed by seminal...)
The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003, designed by seminal Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, will be his first completed structure in the United Kingdom. Sited on the Gallery's lawn from June 20th to September 14th of that year, it will offer visitors an opportunity to experience a space designed by one of the founding figures of modern architecture.
He attended the National School of Fine Arts (1930-1934), and for many years he regarded his work more as a sport than a profession.
In 1936 Niemeyer began work with a team of young Brazilians on a project directed by Le Corbusier, the Swiss architect, to design a building to house the Ministry of Education (executed 1937-1942). They experimented with several bold ideas, erecting part of the structure on pillars that straddle a gardened walkway, covering it in decorative tile, and facing one entire wall of the skyscraper with independently movable concrete shades or blinds (brise-soleils). From Le Corbusier, Niemeyer and his colleagues also learned the flexibility of reinforced concrete, a quality that made a virtue out of Brazil's steel-short economy.
Before this project was completed, Niemeyer was named chief designer for a group of buildings at Pampulha, a residential suburb near Belo Horizonte. He designed a casino, restaurant, yacht club, and, most important, the church of S. Francisco (executed 1942-1943). The church is a series of concrete parabolic curves, and two of the walls are downward extensions of the roof. He also designed the Brazilian Pavilion at the New York World's Fair of 1939 and participated in the planning of the United Nations headquarters in New York, beginning in 1947.
Although a prolific designer of private homes, business offices, and recreational facilities, Niemeyer is best known for the public buildings in Brasilia that he designed after 1956. There he found room in which to exercise his powerful imagination, keen sense of proportion, and plastic sensibility. The Palácio da Alvorada (official presidential residence) has a simple grandeur. Tiny white supports suggest that the building floats lightly beyond a reflecting pool from which the eye glides smoothly toward the upward curves that frame the glass walls of the main foyer. Other major achievements in Brasilia are the Congress complex, the Palace of the Dawn, and the flowerlike Cathedral (still being constructed in 1971), which reveal a sculptured quality only reinforced concrete could lend them. On the other hand, his massive apartment buildings are monotonous and monolithic, besides being poorly designed from both an engineering and a social standpoint.
(The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003, designed by seminal...)
Niemeyer was an atheist throughout his life. His beliefs were based on the “injustices of this world” and on cosmological principles. Niemeyer’s views however never stopped him from designing religious buildings.
Oscar Niemeyer was a socialist and was involved with the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). Because of his political views, Niemeyer had to leave his country in 1964 at the time of the military coup. During his exile Oscar opened an office in Paris. He returned to Brazil in 1985 after the end of the 21 year military dictatorship.
'It is not the right angle that attracts me, nor the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve — the curve that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuous course of its rivers, in the body of the beloved woman. "
"My work is not about 'form follows function, ' but 'form follows beauty' or, even better, 'form follows feminine. '"
"The architect's role is to fight for a better world, where he can produce an architecture that serves everyone and not just a group of privileged people. "
"When you have a large space to conquer, the curve is the natural solution. "
"The rule is the worst thing. You just want to break it. "
"My architecture is easy to understand. And enjoy. I hope it also is hard to forget. "
"Architecture is invention. "
"Architecture will always express the technical and social progress of the country in which it is carried out. If we wish to give it the human content that it lacks, we must participate in the political struggle. "
"I have always accepted and respected all other schools of architecture, from the chill and elemental structures of Mies van der Rohe to the imagination and delirium of Gaudi. I must design what pleases me in a way that is naturally linked to my roots and the country of my origin. "
Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1949), Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects (1963), Honorary Member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (USA, 1964), Honorary Member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR (1983)
Oscar Niemeyer was a keen smoker of cigars, smoking more in later life. His architectural studio was a smoking zone.
Quotes from others about the person
“Nicolai Ouroussoff, the architecture critic of The New York Times, published an article asking whether Niemeyer's last work had been affected by advanced age. Ouroussoff found the "Niterói Contemporary Art Museum" to be of significantly lower quality than the architect's earlier works. He argued that "the greatest threat to Mr. Niemeyer's remarkable legacy may not be the developer's bulldozer or insensitive city planners, but Mr. Niemeyer himself. " He considers iconic works at "Esplanada dos Ministérios" to "have been marred by the architect's own hand. "
The BBC's obituary of Niemeyer said that he "built some of the world's most striking buildings – monumental, curving concrete and glass structures which almost defy description", describing him as "one of the most innovative and daring architects of the last 60 years".
The Washington Post said he was "widely regarded as the foremost Latin American architect of the last century".”
In 1928, at age 21, Niemeyer married Annita Baldo, daughter of Italian immigrants from Padua. They had one daughter, Anna Maria, in 1930 (she predeceased her father on June 6, 2012). Niemeyer subsequently had five grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren, and seven great-great-grandchildren. Annita died in 2004, at 93, after 76 years of marriage. In 2006, shortly before his 99th birthday, Niemeyer married for the second time, to his longtime secretary, Vera Lucia Cabreira at his apartment, a month after he had fractured his hip in a fall.