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Oscar Niemeyer - Brazilian Modernist

(1907 - 2012)


Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer c. 1950

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer c. 1950

Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post Collection/Getty Images

During a career that spanned seventy-five years, architect Oscar Niemeyer defined modern architecture in Brazil.

Full Name: Oscar Niemeyer Ribeiro de Almeida Soares

Born: December 15, 1907 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Died: December 5, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro (read obituary in The Economist)

Education: Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, 1934

Early Works:

  • 1938-1939: With Lucio Costa, the Brazilian Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair
  • 1945: With Le Corbusier and others, the Ministry of Education and Health, Rio de Janeiro
  • 1941: National Stadium, Rio de Janeiro
  • 1943: Church of St Francis, Pampulha
  • 1947-1953: With Le Corbusier and others, the United Nations Headquarters, New York City
  • 1953: Manoel da Nóbrega Pavilion, São Paulo

Later Works:

Life Events:

  • 1935: Joined the office of architect Lucio Costa
  • 1936: Collaborated with Le Corbusier, Lucio Costa, Jorge Machado Moreira, and Afonso Eduardo Reidy to design the Ministry of Education and Health (now the Palace of Culture) in Rio de Janeiro
  • 1945: Joined the Brazilian Communist Party
  • 1956: Began implementing Lucio Costa's plans for Brazil's new capital city
  • 1957-1964: Served as chief architect for the new capital
  • 1966: Moved to France after a military coup in Brazil
  • 1984: Returned to Brazil, practiced architecture, and taught at the University of Rio de Janeiro
  • 1992-1996: President of the Brazilian Communist Party

Related People:


"I have always accepted and respected all other schools of architecture, from the chill and elemental structures of Mies van der Rohe to the imagination and delirium of Gaudi. I must design what pleases me in a way that is naturally linked to my roots and the country of my origin."
—Pritzker Prize biography

"My work is not about form follows function, but form follows beauty or, even better, form follows feminine."
—Architectural Record, December 1997, p. 35

"Let me tell you frankly: I believe that life is more important than architecture. What really counts is to build a better world. I think that architecture is only a profession."
—2009 United Nations interview

"It is not the right angle that attracts me,
Nor the hard, inflexible straight line, man-made.
What attracts me are free and sensual curves.
The curves in my country's mountains,
In the sinuous flow of its rivers,
In the beloved woman's body.
~Quoted by Angel Gurria-Quintana in Architect of Optimism, the Financial Times

More About Oscar Niemeyer:

From his early work with Le Corbusier to his beautifully sculptural buildings for Brazil's new capital city, Oscar Niemeyer shaped the Brazil we see today. He became a leader in the Brazilian communist party and spoke out in defense of liberal governments. Although Niemeyer often said that architecture cannot change the world, many critics say that his idealism and socialist ideology defined his buildings.

Oscar Niemeyer was awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 1970. In 1988, when Niemeyer was 80 years old, he won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize along with American architect Gordon Bunshaft.

Niemeyer's first wife, Annita Baldo, died in 2004. In 2006, when Oscar Niemeyer was 98 years old, he married his long-time aid, Vera Lúcia Cabreira. Niemeyer continued his architectural practice well into his hundreds.


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