Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!

This Tuesday, 15th of December we celebrate the birthday of the last of the Modernists: Oscar Niemeyer!
Born in 1907, the architect of Brasília is completing 102 Years, and still working!

Here is the Master:

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!

Niemeyer graduated in 1934 in the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (National School of Fine arts), in Rio de Janeiro, his hometown, which means he has being working as an architect for over 70 years.
Right after he graduated, even though he needed money, he decided to work for free with Lúcio Costa, the greatest Brazilian architect at the time. He just wanted to learn how to make good architecture...

Niemeyer has always being a radical communist. A big friend of Fidel Castro, the former once said: Niemeyer and I are the last communists in this world!
His political views caused his visa to the USA to be refused several times, and he only concluded one work in there.

His first important job, and the moment when he was recognised as a genius, happened when Le Corbusier came to Brazil in 1936. Together with a team of architects lead by Costa, they created the first modernist building funded by a government, the ministry Education and Health.

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!

Note the beautiful modern gardens by Roberto Burle Marx.

In his own words, he says: my architecture starts with Pampulha!
The year is 1942, and the new mayor of Belo Horizonte, Juscelino Kubitschek, decides o build a fancy residential district in Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais. He met Niemeyer, talked about his plans and pretentiously asked Niemeyer: I need the project for tomorrow.
''I was young, it was my first job. I had to do it. I went to the hotel, worked the whole night, and in the next day i attended the meeting.''
The architectural world was enthusiastic! At last a regional style of modernist architecture was born. Of course, together with the glamour come the criticisms.
His São Francico de Assis church was the building that strioke the European functionalists at their bases. Niemeyer was being very naughty! 

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
Landscaping by Burle Marx

After 13 years in which Juscelino Kubitschek managed to work his way to the top of Brazilian politics, Niemeyer was once again called by Juscelino, this time the president, to build the new capital of their country.
''Brasília was an adventure'' says Niemeyer. After three years of hardwork, president Kubitschek was able to inagurate his new capital designed bu Lúcio Costa and Niemeyer (urbanist and architect, respectively) in 21 of April, 1960. The major governmental buildings are Niemeyer's designs:

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
The National Congress

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
Itamaraty Palace - the Ministry of External Relations, one of his most brilliant buildings

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
Staircase inside Itamaraty Palace

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
The Cathedral of Brasília

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
The Supreme Court

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
The Palácio da Alvorada (Palace of the Dawn) - official residence of the president.

After Brasília, Niemeyer was forced into exile when the militaries rose to power in a dictatorship that would last up to 1985. They tried to oppress Niemeyer, but during exile when he lived in Paris, Adre Malraux, the French minister of culture who once said ''the columns of the Alvorada palace are the most beautiful architectural elements since the Greek columns'', allowed Niemeyer to work in France as a French architect, and his architecture spread throughout Europe. He designed the French Communist Party Headquarters, the Fata building in Turin, the Mondadori Publisher's in Milan, among others.

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
Mondadori Group Headquartes - Milan

Nowadays, his works do not show the same architectural quality as they did in the 1940-1980 period, although he constantly surprises us with majestic building. A good example if the Museum of Contemporary art in Niterói, across the Bay from Rio de Janeiro, completed in 1991.

Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!

During any interview you may find, he will eventually state:

''Architecture is not important. The life is important, being there to help your friends and fight for a fairer world.''

He remembers once being interrogated by the militars in a soundproof dark room, where a young black boy was typing his answers into the formal documents. When asked what communists like him wanted, he bravely said: to change society. At this point, the officer said to the boy - type in there, they want to change society!
Right after, the boy looked at Niemeyer with the look of someone who wants a better life and said: It's not gonna be easy!!

In 2007 he was ranked 9th by Syntetics in the list of top 100 geniuses alive.

Thank you all for reading!
Have a pleasant Tuesday!
WOW what a thoroughly captivating aricle! Thank you Rolando :-)
12/15/2009 - 15:42
Interesting read. Thanks for sharing.
12/15/2009 - 16:56

Very nice designs.  I am no expert but the use of those stylized columns has a familiar '60s-'70s look (could be older but those where the designs I was familiar with during my childhood days). Cheers Kazumi

Re: Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
12/15/2009 - 18:34
Thank-you for sharing this wonderful topic!  I wonder what Niemeyer would create if he was commissioned to design a watch?
Re: Happy Birthday, Niemeyer!
12/16/2009 - 08:50
Happy Birthday? maestro)))