Form Follows Beauty: Oscar Niemeyer

On the same day Dave Brubeck died, the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer also passed away at the extravagant age of 104.

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Oscar Niemeyer

On the same day Dave Brubeck died, the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer also passed away at the extravagant age of 104.

Storified by Richard Prouty · Thu, Dec 06 2012 14:08:47

What Brubeck was to jazz, Niemeyer was to architecture. RIP.
Oscar Niemeyer could claim to have created Brazil’s image as a self-consciously modern country. Brazil’s most famous architect turned the functionalism of Le Corbusier into a sensual minimalism that was at once daring and restrained. His motto was not that "form follows function" but that "form follows beauty". Like the functionalists he worked in reinforced concrete, but found poetry in it. He rejected right angles in favour of the "liberated, sensual curves" found in "the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman"—shapes displayed in the stunning setting and bright, clear sunlight of his home city, Rio de Janeiro.Obituary: Oscar Niemeyer | The Economist
Niemeyer was one of the very few architects who received a dream commission: designing an entire city. Brasília was created between 1956 and 1960. The design linked the modernist Utopian ideal that technology could positively transform society to the developing world’s vision of itself as the site of a genuinely new social order.
The entire complex suggests a world in perfect harmony, even if the politicians and bureaucrats who work there are not. The languorous sensuality of Mr. Niemeyer’s designs are underscored in early sketches for Brasília. They often depict naked young women sunbathing on a vast empty plaza as his buildings recede in the background. It’s an image of romantic alienation that has more in common with the films of Michelangelo Antonioni than with the utopian aspirations of early Modernism.Oscar Niemeyer, Modernist Architect of Brasília, Dies at 104 –
However, like Jørn Utzon, who never saw his design for the Sydney Opera House in its completed form, Niemeyer vanished from the world stage moments after stepping onto it.
Brasília was considered his greatest triumph, but he had little time to glory in it. In 1964, after a coup put the country in the hands of a military dictatorship, he was repeatedly questioned by the military police about his Communist associations. Although he was never imprisoned, commissions dried up. A few years later, he was chosen to design a business center on Claughton Island near Miami. But the United States, still in the grip of the cold war, denied him a visa. (Around the same time, he also designed a house in Santa Monica, Calif., one he never saw.)Oscar Niemeyer, Modernist Architect of Brasília, Dies at 104 –
Brasilia itself came to embody everything that is wrong with modernist architecture and centralized city planning. 
although Niemeyer’s communism lay at the heart of his architectural commitment, Brasilia, like many attempts to reform society through building, was only a partial success. The city never developed into a genuine mixed community, and still today is principally the home of bureaucrats who catch the plane back to Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo for the weekend. Meanwhile, the workers who service the bureaucrats — the cooks and cleaners to whom Niemeyer was most politically sympathetic — live in shanty towns surrounding the model city.Oscar Niemeyer – Telegraph
Oscar Niemeyer – "Urbanized" clipswissdots
Despite the ambivalence associated with Brasilia, Niemeyer is being treated as a national hero in Brazil.
After the flight in the plane loaned by President Dilma Rousseff, the remains of the groundbreaking architect rested in the presidential palace, a deceptively simple building of glass and concrete that seems nearly weightless, an airy glass structure held aloft by vast, curving white pillars. Immense white ramps unspool from within the structure. It was on the main walkway that the mourners marched in to see the creator of these quintessentially Brazilian forms.Brazil mourns death of architect Niemeyer, the man who built its capital – The Washington Post
Oh no, Oscar Niemeyer. Him and Dave Brubeck in the same week. The masters of modernist cool.Guy Somerset

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