Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When in Rio

Last week we lost a great architect with the passing of Oscar Niemeyer. Assuming we last to 104, as he did, this Brazilian architect has left an amazing legacy of modernist structures throughout South America and the world. From the United Nations Secretariat in New York to the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Brasilia (pictured above) his work captured the zeitgeist of architectural evolution in the 20th Century. His soaring buttresses and graceful arches have embodied his public buildings with a sense of freedom in a world still scarred from the deprivations of the Second World War.

His later works (such as the Niteroi Museum of Contemporary Art in Rio c1996) still resonate with his modernist approach but feel more in harmony with the landscape. This is in stark contrast to his masterpiece in Brasilia in the 1960's. Some would call his work brutalist, others 'retro', but to me he represents a pinnacle in design evolution. A bridge between the 50's and a global culture in flux in the 60's and 70's. His close ties to Fidel Castro and membership of the communist party may have hurt his commissions with his more conservative clients, but talk about giving you street cred!

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