Oscar Niemeyer dies at 104

By Chris Sleight07 December 2012

Oscar Niemeyer, regarded as one of the leading Latin American architects of the 20th century died on December 5 at the age of 104. He will be best remembered for master-minding the layout of Brasilia, ahead of it becoming the Brazilian capital in 1960, and for the design of the city’s iconic civic buildings.

Born in Rio in 1907, Mr Niemeyer was educated at the city’s Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, and after graduating, went on to work as a draftsman. His first designs were commissioned in the 1930s when he worked for architect Lucio Costa, and he contributed to the design for the Ministry of Education of Health in Rio.

In 1956 he was commissioned by Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek to design government buildings for the country’s new capital. These included the National Congress building, Supreme Court building and the Cultural Complex of the Republic, among others. Many of the structures he designed for Brasilia were striking and experimental in their nature, perhaps most notably the upside-down funnel shape that forms the Cathedral of Brasilia.

Following his work on the capital’s buildings, he appointed as the first head of architecture at the University of Brasilia. However, this was a short-lived tenure as he left the country following the 1964 military coup. He would not return for more than 20 years.

He was a strong advocate of concrete as a construction material, saying in several interviews that he had never used metallic structures in his designs. Speaking to Lafarge’s in-house magazine in 2001 he said, “For many reasons, concrete is our preferred material in Brazil. With its versatility and flexibility, it is the most suitable material for the interplay of curves I like in my designs.”

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