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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oscar Niemeyer dies at the age of 104

Regarded as one of the most important architects ever and having created the largest number of projects, surpassing 600, the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer died at 21h55 of December 5th , 2012, in the Hospital Samaritano, District of Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro. He was 104 years old and although debilitated, he worked almost until his last day proving his dedication.

 Born on December 15, 1907, Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares, graduated from the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes do Rio de Janeiro (School of Fine Arts of Rio de Janeiro) in 1934 and started gaining national and international recognition during the 1940's, namely for his plastic explorations of concrete.

 Niemeyer completed his first project in 1937, for which he didn't receive any income. It was a building in the Lagoa district, Rio de Janeiro, influenced by Le Corbusier and entitled Obra do Berço (inaugurated in 1938).

 In 1946, the architect is invited to lecture at Yale, but his visa is denied because of his political beliefs. However, in 1947, Niemeyer is pointed as part of the international team of architects selected to develop the United Nations headquarters in New York. His project, elaborated together with Le Corbusier, would become the selected one.

 During the year of 1951, he projects the Copan building, located in the old downtown of São Paulo and known as the largest concrete structure in Brazil. It is also in the same year that he builds his own house, which he names Casa das Canoas because of the road where it stands. Many years later, it would become part of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation. In 2007, the house was demolished by the IPHAN.

 Author of several known projects, it's in the year of 1956 that Oscar Niemeyer is contacted by the elected president of Brazil, Juscelino Kubitschek, to lead the ambicious project of moving the capital to an uninhabited region in the center of the Country. The architect is invited by Juscelino to integrate the direction board of Novacap, the building company responsible for the new capital.

 In 1957, he opens a public contest for the head plan of Brasília, the new capital. His former boss and friend Lúcio Costa wins the contest and becomes responsible for the city's plan, while Niemeyer takes the task of developing the projects for the buildings.

 Completed during one mandate, the construction of Brasília required Niemeyer to plan a series of buildings in few months as to be able to shape it. Among the most recognisable ones are the President's residence (Palácio da Alvorada), the Edifício do Congresso Nacional (Câmara dos Deputados e Senado Federal), the Catedral de Brasília, the state department buildings, the Government's building (Palácio do Planalto) and several residential and commercial buildings.

 Kubitschek's determination was essential to move forward his intention of developing the depopulated center of Brazil and bring progress to the rest of the country.

 The project of Lúcio Costa had considered the modern concepts of a city, where displacement takes an important role and where the automobile is placed in evidence. Buildings are parted over large green areas.
Brasília was built based on directives that remount to Le Corbusier's projects from the 1920's and to his project for the city of Chandigarh, evident in the monumental scale of its governmental buildings. The city also exhibits concepts similar to those of Hilberseimer.

 In this new projected city, the socialist ideal was taken in mind, where homes would belong to the Government and be used by the public servents. In this perspective, all workers either public servents or parliement members, should inhabit the same buildings.
 However the contruction of Brasília wasn't exempt from controversy, namely due to its monumental scale and for the priority given to the automobile. The city developed into a non-predictable plan, with satellite towns appearing as a way to accomodate the growing population.
Nowdays only a small part of the inhabitants of the Federal District lives in the area anticipated in the project of Lúcio Costa.

Article still in development......................

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