Art on This Day
Oscar Niemeyer was born on this day in 1907. He was a Brazilian architect considered to be one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture. Niemeyer was best known for his design of civic buildings for Brasília, a planned city that became Brazil's capital in 1960, as well as his collaboration with other architects on the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. His exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of reinforced concrete was highly influential in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Niemeyer became one of Brazil's most prolific architects, working both domestically and overseas. This included the design of the Edifício Copan (a large residential building in São Paulo) and a collaboration with Le Corbusier on the United Nations Headquarters, which yielded invitations to teach at Yale University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
In 1956, Niemeyer was invited by Brazil's new president, Juscelino Kubitschek, to design the civic buildings for Brazil's new capital, which was to be built in the centre of the country, far from any existing cities. This work led to his appointment as head of architecture at the University of Brasília, as well as to honorary membership of the American Institute of Architects.
Due to his largely leftist ideology and involvement with the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), Niemeyer left the country after the 1964 military coup and opened an office in Paris. He returned to Brazil in 1985, where he was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988.
In 1996, he completed the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói — MAC) which is situated in the city of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is one of the city’s main landmarks. The saucer-shaped modernist structure, which has been likened to a UFO, is set on a cliffside, overlooking a beach. In the film Oscar Niemeyer, an architect committed to his century, Niemeyer is seen flying over Rio de Janeiro in a UFO which then lands on the site, suggesting this to be the origin of the museum.
In 2002, the Oscar Niemeyer Museum was inaugurated in the city of Curitiba, Paraná. It is also known as Museu do Olho or Niemeyer's Eye, due to the design of the building. The museum focuses on the visual arts, architecture and design.
In 2003, at 96, Niemeyer was called to design the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion in Hyde Park, London, a gallery that each year invites a famous architect who has never previously built in the UK, to design this temporary structure.
He was still involved in diverse projects at the age of 100, mainly sculptures and adjustments of previous works. Over a career of 78 years he designed approximately 600 projects. Niemeyer died in Rio de Janeiro on 05 December 2012, ten days before his 105th birthday.
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