Óscar Niemeyer, 1907-2012

Paradoxes of a Genius

Roberto Segre 

At the threshold of his 105th year, on 7th December 2012, the longest-living master of the Modern Movement passed away. His work represented the creative energy of Brazil, the anxiousness of modernity, the fortitude of national unity identified with the building of a new capital, and his country’s aspiration to a significant political and cultural presence in the Latin American and world context. Some of his works became national or regional icons: the Pampulha complex in Belo Horizonte; Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo; Brasilia’s government buildings; the museums in Niterói and Curitiba. Others went up abroad: the French Communist Party headquarters in Paris; the cultural center in Le Havre; the Mentouri University of Constantine in Algeria; the Mondadori publishing offices in Milan. These works gave him prestige and recognition not only professionally or within the cultural universe of architecture, but on a popular level as well. In Brazil, even the humblest of citizens is familiar with the mythical figure of Niemeyer. Hence the honors received on his death, almost like those of a head of state: his body lay in state at Planalto Palace in Brasilia and later at the City Palace in Rio de Janeiro; political, cultural and social acknowledgement of the kind that Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto and Frank Lloyd Wright did not get in Switzerland, Finland and the United States...

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