Oscar Niemeyer, a highly influential architect dies at the age of 104

Oscar Niemeyer, one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture passed away yesterday at the age of 104. He dies on 5th December 2012, ten days before his 105th birthday. He, who had outlived his contemporaries to become the world’s oldest practicing architect of international stature, died Wednesday at a Rio de Janeiro hospital due to respiratory infection which is common for people of his age. For architects like us who usually do not have a healthy life due to this career, it would be almost impossible to have live that old, but Niemeyer did it. Hence, his career spans for many decades and his contribution to modern architecture is extensive and priceless. His works have also influenced many other younger architects who admired his unique design approach.


(Image source: http://adbr001cdn.archdaily.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1351111137____oscar_niemeyer-530×321.jpg)

During his long and productive life, Niemeyer was revered as well as ridiculed for his daring designs, but the creativity and sheer volume of his works ultimately spoke for him. In 1988, at 80, he shared architecture’s biggest prize, the Pritzker. This award is the biggest achievement to any architects, and is like a Noble prize to people in this career. He is a passionate man and he lived in protest of the right angle “and buildings designed with the ruler and the square.” He had once said this, that generally explains his design interest and direction:

I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.

For that approach, he had produced many daring and distinctive designs. Some of his famous works are National Congress of Brazil, Cathedral of Brasilia, United Nations headquarter at New York City, Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, and two buildings in dedication to himself, Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Brazil and Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre at Spain. His exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of reinforced concrete was highly infuential on the architecture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries too. An image of National Congress of Brazil, a masterpiece designed by him:

APTOPIX Brazil Obit Niemeyer

(Image source: http://stmedia.startribune.com/images/1brazil120612.JPG)

The BBC’s obituary of Niemeyer noted that he “built some of the world’s most striking buildings – monumental, curving concrete and glass structures which almost defy description”, also acclaiming him as “one of the most innovative and daring architects of the last 60 years”. The Washington Post described him as “widely regarded as the foremost Latin American architect of the last century”. His death is certainly saddening as the world losses another great architect that had shaped our built environment for so many years. His contribution to the modern architecture will never be forgotten, and he is truly blessed for have live to such an age that many couldn’t do so. May he rest in peace.

(Information source: http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-oscar-niemeyer-20121206,0,554245.story)


World’s oldest living architect: Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho, or popularly known as Oscar Niemeyer is currently 103 years old and would be celebrating his 104th birthday on December this year. At 103 currently, he is the world’s oldest living architect whom are still contributing to designs in his company through his sketches and explanations. He is a Brazilian architect whom had worked in the field for over 70 years, specializing in international modern architecture. He is a pioneer in exploring the formal possibilities of reinforced concrete solely for their aesthetic impact.

His buildings are often characterized by being spacious and exposed, mixing volumes and empty space to create unconventional patterns and often propped up by pilotis. Both lauded and criticized for being a “sculptor of monuments”,  he has been praised for being a great artist and one of the greatest architects of his generation by his supporters. Here below is a quote from the architect himself describing his approach in architecture:

‘It is not the right angle that attracts me, nor the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve — the curve that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuous course of its rivers, in the body of the beloved woman.’ 

His first work (Gustavo Capanema Palace with Le Corbusier) came in 1936 which is now over 75 years ago, and his latest masterpiece is the Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre in Spain on 2011 (this year). The latter is a big cultural centre which is ‘an open square to the humankind, a place for education, culture and peace’ (Oscar Niemeyer). In total, he has designed well over 80 buildings or structures which is an impressive record of his contribution to the built environment, particularly in Brazil and Europe. One more thing I wish to highlight is Oscar Niemeyer is the architect of a building in Malaysia, built back in 1980, which is the Penang State Mosque eventhough his contribution in Asia is very minimal.

Two structures which he designed and dedicated to himself are the Oscar Niemeyer Museum at Parana, Brazil and the International Cultural Centre mentioned on the previous paragraph. The former is a museum resembling an eye-shaped tower with ramp leading to it from the reflecting pond below as well as a rectangular gallery behind. The museum features many of Niemeyer’s signature elements: bold geometric forms, sculptural curved volumes placed prominently to contrast with rectangular volumes, sinuous ramps for pedestrians, large areas of white painted concrete, and areas with vivid murals or paintings. His major and famous works are as follow:

At this age and still helping on design contribution, he is often being criticized of the lower quality of his later (recent) works which is definitely affected by his old age. Anyway, the scale of his contribution to architecture is extensive and he can be considered as one of the fathers of modern architecture along with Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius. He had also won 1988 Pritzker Prize, the highest honour to an architect every year. Living for over a century which is seldom acquired by many others, his works and name as a great architect would be eternal. (His hands must be very shaking when sketching something, but his creative mind on design still presents)