House Porn: Celebrating the Life and Work of Legendary Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Oscar Niemeyer, one of the 20th century's finest architects, passed away this week at the ripe old age of 104. There seems to be something about the long lifespan of legendary architects—Frank Lloyd Wright lived to 91. Philip Johnson was 98 when he passed in 2005. I.M. Pei is alive at 95. Great architecture lives forever, and it appears that great architects sometimes give a valiant, but futile effort to outlive their work.

For those unfamiliar with Niemeyer, you may be familiar with his work—including the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City. In 1988 he won architecture’s highest honor—the Pritzker Prize. But nothing in his career equaled the architectural masterpiece that is the capital city of his home country of Brazil—Brasilia, developed by urban planner Lucio Costa out of a cleared patch of jungle, with all of the city’s iconic architecture designed by Niemeyer.

Brasilia is a city laid out in the shape of an airplane, with residential neighborhoods along the wings and Niemeyer’s monumental neoclassical government buildings running the length of the fuselage.

Niemeyer was known for softening the edges of otherwise angular, stark and unadorned components of modern architecture—making structures that were human, whimsical and sensuous—rather than austere as some modernist design can be.

According to Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, “He always said the curviness of his work was an homage to the female form -- appropriate, I suppose, for a man who often sketched out his ideas while overlooking famed Copacabana Beach. "Form follows function" is the credo of modern architecture. Niemeyer said his motto was: "Form follows feminine."

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Additional reading about Oscar Niemeyer: Vanity Fair

 

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