Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer ( Rio de Janeiro , December 15, 1907 – Rio de Janeiro , December 5, 2012 ) was a Brazilian architect. Until his death, he was one of the main exponents of the modern movement in Latin America . The marked plastic character of his work was revealed in the use of concrete to obtain architectural volumes of great formal richness while incorporating the poetic values ​​of the culture of his country. Together with the Brazilian architect Lúcio Costa he was responsible for the planning and construction of the city of Brasilia. He designed more than 600 projects around the world in more than 70 years of career.


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  • 1 Biographical summary
    • 1Trayectoria
    • 2 Obras
      • 2.1 Exile
      • 2.2 Return to Brazil
    • 3 Health status
    • 4 Carrots
  • 2 Techniques
  • 3 Awards and decorations
  • 4 Several of his most outstanding works
  • 5Fuente

biographical synthesis

He was born into a bourgeois family of German, Portuguese and Arab origin.

In 1928, Niemeyer married Annita Bildo, with whom he had an only daughter, Anna Maria. Their union lasted 76 years, until Annita’s death at the end of 2004. Her daughter Anna Maria died in June 2012, at the age of 82, a victim of pulmonary emphysema.

At age 98, Niemeyer remarried his secretary, Vera Lucía Cabrera.

He finished high school and began working in his father’s typography workshop, later entering university at the School of Fine Arts in Rio (Brazil), from which he graduated as an architectural engineer in 1934. Despite the financial difficulties he was going through, he decided to work in the studio of the architect Lúcio Costa , one of the main figures of the avant-garde in Latin America, and Carlos Leão.


A few years after graduating, in 1939, he was entrusted with the position of director of the group of architects for the new building of the Ministry of Education, occupying the position left by Lucio Costa . During the development of this work, Niemeyer was impressed by the work of Le Corbusier, Franco-Swiss architect and great master of the modern movement, and came to largely adopt his architectural proposals for the realization of his infant school in River.

In 1939 he designed, in collaboration with Lucio Costa, the Brazilian pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York .

In 1941 Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira , mayor of Belo Horizonte , commissioned him to build a series of buildings in the suburbs of the city of Pampulha. The result was a magnificent ensemble in which painting and sculpture are masterfully integrated with the architecture, in a very personal and imaginative style (parabolic vaults and sloping walls) far removed from the prevailing rationalism. One of the buildings is the controversial church of San Francisco, so radical in its structure that its consecration was postponed 16 years after its completion in 1943.

His later works, the Boavista Bank in Rio (1946), the Aeronautical Technical Center in San José dos Campos (1947, first prize in the competition) and, from 1951, the buildings in Ibirapuera Park and the residential complexes in Saô Paulo , were designed with an excess of fantasy and a rationalist simplification.


At the end of 1947 he was appointed a member of the international team in charge of carrying out the UN building in New York , and became, to a great extent, the author of the definitive project, with a strong influence from Le Corbusier .

The use of reinforced concrete was also of outstanding importance in the construction of some of the complex curved surfaces of its buildings: the theater annexed to the Ministry of Culture (1948), the monument to RuiBarbosa (1949) or the Duchem factory (1950), in collaboration with Helio Uchoa .

The strength of the straight line was used in the Diamond Club and School (1951) and in the Kubitschek building in Belo Horizonte (1951), as a projection of the roof overhang or in floors of various shapes, the starting point for the group of permanent exhibition buildings in Ibirapuera Park (1951), in collaboration with Z. Lotufo, H. Uchôa, E. Kneese de Mello, G. Estellita and C. Lemos. Shortly after, with an ever-increasing mastery of plastic elements, the Sul América clinic (1953), the Belo Horizonte school (1954), the projected Caracas museum (1954) in the shape of an inverted pyramid, and the residential building of the Hansa district in Berlin (1957).

Brasilia , projected according to the general plan of Lucio Costa, became the high point of his career. Niemeyer designed all important public buildings, with the aim of expressing the symbolic content of each building. The interpretation of the imagination is associated with function, with a discreet formal language combined with careful elements of great expressive force.


As of 1962, he begins an exile in France that led him to an internationalization of his architectural work.

In Algeria he carried out the University of Constantine (1968-1970), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1974) and the Urbanization and Center plan for the city of Algiers . In France he made the Headquarters of the Central Committee of the French Communist Party in Paris (1971). In Italy , the Headquarters of the Mondadori Publishing House offices in Milan (1975). In Israel he plans for the urbanization of the Negev desert .

return to brazil

Back in Brazil , he designed the Hotel Nacional in Rio (1970), in the shape of a huge cylinder, the Cathedral of Brasilia (1970), the Musical Center of Rio , the Museum of Man (1977) and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rio (1996).

Despite Niemeyer’s great architectural production in Brazil, his influence on the new generations of architects and his contribution to the development of the modern movement, his line must be considered as an extreme from which Brazilian production remains, as a whole, quite far.

In 2002, the expansion and reconstruction works of the New Curitiba Museum, in the state of Paraná, were completed . The building, one of the largest museums in the world, was built from the Castelo Branco, a work that Niemeyer designed in 1967.

In March 2006, he gave the city of Avilés a cultural project that, in addition to thanking the Prince of Asturias , was an artistic testament to the Brazilian architect. It will be his only work to date in Spanish territory. The roof of the center has been placed by applying a new technique to cover a dome, whose surface covers no less than 4,000 square meters. The Niemeyer , as it is colloquially known, was opened in the spring of 2011.

On December 15, 2006, the Honestino Guimaraes National Museum and the Leonel de Moura Brizola National Library were inaugurated, which constitute the Cultural Complex of the Republic, the largest in Brazil, located on the Esplanade of the Ministries, in Brasilia. And in April 2007 the Oscar Niemeyer Popular Theater of Niterói did it , in Rio de Janeiro.

In 2008 he presented the Puerto de la Música project , which would take place in Rosario, in the Urquiza park.

In January 2009, Niemeyer presented his new project, the Plaza de la Soberania , which will be built on the Esplanade of the Ministries, in Basilia. That same year the construction of the Oscar Niemeyer Auditorium in Ravello , in Italy, was completed.

Other of his most outstanding works during these years are the, a library and a student residence in Oxford , Great Britain , the Brazilian embassy in Havana , Cuba , the Yacht Club in Rio de Janeiro and the Ministry of Defense in Brasilia . The Latin America Memorial , an immense eight-hectare civic center inaugurated in 1989 in São Paulo , is also his work .

He is the author of several buildings, including the Federal Supreme Court , the Alvorada Palace , the presidential chapel and the famous metropolitan cathedral , with a circular floor plan, which has a very expressive image marked by a series of concrete nerves that ascend toward the center. Niemeyer’s work is also the nerve center of the city of Brasilia, the Plaza de los Tres Poderes , a large urban space surrounded by the Parliament buildings.

Health condition

Niemeyer, in a wheelchair since 2008 due to a pelvic fracture, was hospitalized several times in 2011 and 2012.

Until his hospitalization, Niemeyer continued to work in his atelier with large curved windows, facing the famous Copacabana Beach , leaving some twenty works in progress in various countries.

He had been hospitalized since November 2, 2012, initially due to dehydration and to place a gastric tube. Later he had kidney failure for which he began to undergo dialysis , digestive bleeding that was controlled and finally on December 4 a respiratory infection that forced him to use a respirator and be sedated, until he suffered a worsening of the respiratory infection. . [1]


He died on December 5, 2012 at the age of 104 at the Samaritano Hospital, after suffering a worsening of the respiratory infection, which caused his death.

Niemeyer’s body was embalmed in Rio de Janeiro and transferred to Brasilia for a wake on December 6 at the Planalto Palace , seat of the presidency and one of his great works. He then returned to Rio de Janeiro for a wake at the City Palace and for his burial.


Le Corbusieran principles were applied with special sensitivity, together with the innovations carried out by Niemeyer’s strong personality: the exterior marble cladding, the inverted structure, the “rationally baroque” forms and the curved concave and convex forms of some of his projects. .

A great contrast between the architectural image of his works prevents him from being included in a defined line or style, alternating an image that borders on nudity, such as the Boavista bench , or that acquires an extremely decorative and ornate value, such as the one that he presents to us in his own house, in Gavea (1953).

Niemeyer’s true goal becomes the union of harmony, grace and elegance, the configuration of a functional and spatial architecture arising from a colossal plastic and urban intention, with a strong attraction to the free curve. His overflowing fantasy was strengthened by the collaboration of several engineers, such as E. Baumgart, at the beginning of his career, and V. Cardoso since the construction of the Pampulha complex. The Belo Horizonte Municipal Theater (1943), the Cataguases School (1946) and the Peixoto house also belong to this period .

Numerous projects on unexecuted housing allowed Niemeyer to discover new possibilities of contrasts between volume, terrain, surface and its best relationship with the landscape.

Awards and decorations

His fruitful career was awarded with the prizes:

  • Lenin Peace Prize, Russia (1963).
  • Gran Premio Internacional de Arquitectura for “Architecture today”, France (1965).
  • Pritzker Prize, United States (1988).
  • Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, Spain (1989).
  • Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale, VI International Architecture Exhibition (1996).
  • Unesco Prize 2001, in the Culture category (2001).
  • Konex Mercosur Award, Argentina (2002).
  • Japan Imperial Prize, Japan Art Association (2004).
  • ALBA Prize for the Arts, Venezuela (2008).

Throughout his 70-year career, he received the following decorations:

  • Honorary member of the American Institute of Architects (USA) (1963).
  • Honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1964).
  • Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, Vatican (1990).
  • Title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of São Paulo (1995).
  • Title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Minas Gerais (1995).
  • Order of Saurí, First Class. Highest distinction awarded by the Dominican Republic (1996).
  • Royal Gold Medal del Royal Institute of British Architects (1998).
  • Medal of the Order of Solidarity of the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba (2001).
  • Darcy Ribeiro Medal of Merit from the State Council of Education of the State of Rio de Janeiro (2001).
  • Title of Great Official of the Order of Educational and Cultural Merit Gabriela Mistral, of the Ministry of Education of Chile (2001).
  • Title of Architect of the 20th Century, from the Superior Council of the Institute of Architects of Brazil (2001).
  • Medal and title of Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, Government of France (2007).
  • Medal of the Order of Friendship, Russia (2007).
  • Order of Arts and Letters of Spain ( November 6, 2009).


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