The world mourns the loss of the visionary Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer who died Wednesday, 5 December, reportedly of respiratory failure. Born in Rio Di Janeiro, Niemeyer was a towering figure who worked right up until his death. He was a force in advancing the modern movement in Brazil, taking up the Purism of Le Corbusier and his followers and infusing it with a new energy and sensuousness, which, the historian Kenneth Frampton said ‘echoed in its plastic exuberance the 18th-century Brazilian Baroque’.
Niemeyer left behind a prodigious body of built work and he will be perhaps best remembered for his early work in Sao Paulo, Rio and Brasilia, most notably the Casino at Pampulha and the new capitol complex, as well his landmark buildings located throughout the world including France and the United States. Interestingly it was a small project in New York - the Brazilian Pavilion of the 1939 World’s Fair - that put Niemeyer on the architectural map, so to speak, and gained worldwide recognition for the Brazilian modern movement.
Niemeyer was the last surviving architect of the team that executed the United Nations Headquarters in New York, where he was fondly remembered yesterday by that institution’s chief, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In a statement Mr. Ban said: “Niemeyer infused his work with a powerful sense of humanity and global engagement.”
Echoing Mr. Ban’s comments, the head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, saluted the architect’s commitment to the concern of the city and his advocacy of humanity. “Oscar Niemeyer helped define the 20th century and lay the foundations for the 21st- for all this he deserves the title of universal artist. As a founder of modern architecture, he gave the cities he loved iconic buildings, hundreds of monuments, recognisable among all in Paris, Sao Paulo, Rio and of course, Brasilia,” Ms. Bokova said.
Mr. Niemeyer’s reputation, which tragically took a nosedive with the failure of Brasilia, was resurrected later in life. In the 1980s he returned to Brazil and ran an office overflowing with commissions. Most recently at the age of 96, Mr. Niemeyer celebrated the opening of his National Museum and National Library, located along the Monumental Axis in Brasilia.