What attracts you? For the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, it is “the free and sensual curve. The curve found in the mountains of my country, in the sinuous course of its rivers, in the body of the beloved woman. The universe is all made of curves. The curved universe of Einstein”. That’s what his works are inspired by: sinuous shapes with the use of plasticity in reinforced concrete.
Born in December 1907, Niemeyer began drawing in childhood. After working in his father’s typography workshop, he joined the National School of Fine Arts in 1929 and graduated an engineer and architect in 1934. Shortly before graduating, he began his work with the architect Lúcio Costa from the modernist school, with whom he worked for seven years until 1943, and with whom he developed the project for the Ministry of Education and Health of Brazil. One of the major influences on his work was one of the pioneers of modern architecture Le Corbusier, a Swiss naturalized French, whose architecture was developed primarily with steel and reinforced concrete with basic geometric shapes. In 1946, working with Le Corbusier, Niemeyer drew up the design chosen for the United Nations Headquarters in New York, after achieving international prominence with the Conjunto da Pampulha, work performed between the years 1942 and 1944 in the state of Minas Gerais, which strongly characterized Niemeyer’s free-flowing forms architectural style.
He was chosen in 1957 to build the new capital of Brazil, Brasília. The aim of the President Juscelino Kubitschek with this project was to develop the depopulated center of Brazil through economic progress. Some years later, since Niemeyer had always been involved in political issues, he went into exile in France during the Brazilian dictatorial period until the 1980s. Abroad, he developed projects mainly in Europe and North Africa.
In 1988, he received the architecture’s highest award, the Pritzker Prize, for the construction of the Cathedral of Brasília. The architect, who turned 100 years in 2007, yet lucid and working, donated the money received from several projects that he developed. Niemeyer believed that architecture should not think only in architecture itself, but also how it can solve the world’s problems. He argues that the role of architecture is to fight for a better world, in which the architecture can be developed to serve all and not just a group of privileged people.
This year, the Converse shoe line announced a collection inspired by the Brazilian’s work: the sneakers allude to specific works designed by him and display curves in all models. In 2011, his work inspired the collection of the Brazilian jeweler H. Stern in a tribute to his job:
Do you know Niemeyer’s works? Which one is your favorite?