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Oscar Niemeyer Soares

Niemeyer Soares, Oscar (ŏskärˈ nēˈmĪər sŏäˈrəs) [key], 1907–2012, Brazil's foremost 20th-century architect, b. Rio de Janeiro. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Niemeyer developed an architecture noted for its daring conception, purity of line, and formal lyricism; it is frequently characterized by curving forms and soaring spans of reinforced concrete. Offering an alternative to the strict rectangles of the International style, he frequently worked with organic shapes and is often credited with introducing sensuality into modernist architecture.

Along with Le Corbusier, Niemeyer was one of the chief collaborators in the design of the ministry of education in Rio de Janeiro (1937–43), which marked the first use of the modernist curtain wall. With Lúcio Costa and P. L. Wiener, Niemeyer designed the Brazilian Pavilion for the New York World's Fair in 1939. For Pampulha, in Belo Horizonte, he planned several major buildings, notably its concrete and glass casino, which was turned into an art museum in 1946. In 1947 he collaborated on the design for the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

In his most important project, Niemeyer directed the creation of Brazil' new capital, Brasília (1950–60), within Costa's master plan. His remarkable original work on this project brought him enormous acclaim, and it is usually considered his masterpiece. In later years, the city was widely criticized as a mistake in urban planning, ill-conceived because it has no relation to its undeveloped jungle site in central Brazil or, with its wide soulless spaces, to the patterns of life in Brazil. Nonetheless, the government buildings designed by Niemeyer—particularly the crownlike cathedral, the presidential residence, the foreign ministry, and the supreme court building—continue to win high praise for their graceful moderninsm.

His leftist associations caused him to fall out of favor in Brazil after the 1964 military coup, and he subsequently worked mainly in Europe, designing the headquarters for the French Communist party in Paris (1965), the Mondadori Publishing House in Milan (1968), Constantine Univ. in Algeria (1969), and the House of Culture in Le Havre, France (1983). He returned to Brazil in the early 1980s. Later buildings include the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niterói, Brazil (1996) and the National Museum and National Library in Brasilia (2006). In 1988 Niemeyer was awarded the Pritzker Prize. The Oscar Niemeyer Foundation (2010), which houses models and drawings from his career, is in a building outside Rio that he designed.

See his memoir (tr. 2000); biographical studies by S. Papadaki (1960) and R. Spade, ed. (1971); studies by D. K. Underwood (1994), M. Salvaing (2002), A. Hess (2006), S. Phillippou (2008), and P. Jodidio (2013).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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