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Design Icon: Oscar Niemeyer

A look back at the iconic modernist buildings designed by legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Pampulha Architectural Complex Belo Horizonte, Brazil (1943) After starting his career by apprenticing then collaborating with Lucio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer made his mark with this modernization project. The highlight is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, a revolutionary modernist touchstone with a parabolic roof and polychromatic tiles that was such an unexpected departure from previous chapel designs, one politician suggested demolishing it.

Brazil’s modern architectural visionary Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) imagined buildings as sensuous and curvaceous as the beauties he’d see strolling the Copacabana beach, within eyesight of his main studio in Rio. He said “form follows feminine,” but music is almost a more potent metaphor for his work with concrete: It was said that the songs of bossa nova legend Tom Jobim were like a house built by Niemeyer. He was considered the last of Modernism's "true believers," with a career that spanned decades and continued until the very end of his 104-year-long life.

His legendary life—apprenticing and collaborating with Lucio Costa, sparring with Le Corbusier over the UN Building, winning patronage from politician Juscelino Kubitschek (which would lead to the massive commission to shape the capital Brasilia), exile after a military coup and friendship with fellow Communists like Fidel Castro—only seems fitting for a man who brought his own grace and vision to the International style.

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