RIP Oscar Niemeyer (104)

I will always remember the time one of the members of the Los Angeles ModCom presented a 3D slideshow of photos he took of Oscar Niemeyer's designs for Brasilia. I was blown away by his swooping futuristic designs.

[UPDATE: The moronic news bureau capriciously shut off streaming for the video I originally posted, so here's a better video from our pals at Motherboard.)

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed some of the 20th Century's most famous modernist buildings, has died just before his 105th birthday. He rose to international fame as the architect of the main government buildings in the futuristic Brazilian capital, Brasilia, inaugurated in 1960. He also worked with Swiss-born modernist architect Le Corbusier on the UN building in New York. He continued to work on new projects until earlier this year.

BBC: Oscar Niemeyer, Brazilian architect, dies at 104 (Thanks, Antinous!)


  1. I was watching Michael Palin’s Brazillian travel docco just recently, and it had quite a feature on the architecture in Brasilia. My wife and I were both struck by how fresh and contemporary it looked, lacking almost any fashionable affectation of the period, instead presenting a pure, timeless vision of modernism.

    Sad he has passed, but man, what a legacy.

    1. I was thinking the same thing but I held my tongue, for fear of wearing the “noob 4lyf” badge for life.

  2. Brasilia. while lauded for it’s design and style. Was/Is probably one of the unfriendly cities for the underclass/unemployed to live in, or for people that want to live in walkable cities. It’s car dependent.

    Most of the workers live on the outskirts of the city and bussed in to do work. Sterile and cold.

    1. Worse than that–they live in favelas, and as a visiting engineer, I was instructed to always have a car and driver handy, never walk, because I would be robbed of all my possessions.   While he (Oscar) had a clear vision, it was the vision from a car, with a minister asking him “How can we make this more impressive?”    The result is great pictures and a horrible city. 

  3. I saw this 60’s new wave film a while back (can’t remember the name offhand) a scene was filmed in Brasilia while it was still under construction!  I was like, “Hey that’s Brasilia”. It was cool to see the new city almost complete.      

  4. Niemeyer’s Brasilia is beautiful in photos.

    It looks like a horrendous place to live and work.

    Where do you go to eat and enjoy the company of people?

    1. That’s bullshit. You see photos of monuments and think that people live inside them? People live in residential areas surrounded by trees and space for their kids. It’s a wonderful place to live. It does have some problems, but what big city doesn’t?

  5. A post about one of the greatest architects who ever lived – and his tragic passing – and yet the comments trash Brasilia. Ugh.

    He was a man loved by his country, and by others all over the world, may his work continue to inspire.

    1. I think the great man wouldn´t like the reactions to his work to be only an idiotic parade of compliments and applause. This guy was great, also, because he had a fair share of self-criticism.

    2. Most comments that trash Brasilia are from people that doesn’t know the city. Also, Oscar Niemeyer did not plan the city itself, just most of it’s iconic buildings. The urbanistic project was made by Lucio Costa.

      1. Hm no, many people who live in Brasilia don’t actually like the urban planning, either. Furthermore, his buildings are often criticised for the complete disregard his projects had people who actually live or work in them. A famous example is the National Library of Brasilia.

    3. The post is prompted by his passing, but the content is mostly the buildings and the rationale.  He talks about joining architecture with fine art which leads to desolate spaces like those pictured in Brasilia. People and cities the world over suffer from the modernist blight of monumental geometric shapes wholly out of proportion to humans. A building here or there is wonderful, but modernist buildings almost require their big barren plazas to make their statements. It’s part of the “art”.

      He seems like a very thoughtful and interesting man. But if modernist approaches to architecture disappeared from our communities, we’d all be much better off.  That’s happening, but very slowly.

    4.  As a Brazilian, I’ll tell you that he is not universally revered in my country, especially not by people who have to work and live in buildings he designed.

  6. a friend of mine grew up in brasilia in the ’60s/’70s in a middle class neighbourhood. his address was something like “quadrant 4, sector B”.  they all had the feeling they were part of something very futuristic.  he said that there were strict rules against things like hanging washing and plants in areas of public view as this could spoil the lines of the building, but my friend is to this day a huge fan of niemeyer and has a love of architecture and futurism as a result.  niemeyer was an amazing talent and a visionary. 

  7. Alpacaman,
    nothing tragic about a person´s passing at more than one hundred years of age.

    that said, he survived his daughter who died recently at something like 83. good trick!

    all the same, Brasilia, as unfortunate as it is, can´t be his legacy.
    look to his individual works such as

    the best way to ´see´ RIo de Janeiro.
    and there is much more.  the curious will find it all via google etc,

  8. Brasilia, like most modernist visions of city planning, is a failed experiment. It’s completely unsustainable both in it’s construction materials and automobile-dependent layout. There’s no sense of neighborhood or community, just a lot of empty space and massive concrete spires. There is no gathering place in Brasilia, it’s really about isolation (privacy) more than anything else. The empty spaces aren’t even attractive empty space. It’s not filled with usable parks or green belts. It’s just flat empty no man’s land. Businesses and residences are separated from each other by ludicrous distance to no one’s benefit. There is no support in the layout whatsoever for any kind of public transit. It’s a whole-hearted love letter to the automobile, like something Norman Bel Geddes would think of. The modernists were wild idealists at level of individual engagement with design, and many of their ideas (particularly home architecture) are brilliant. But their ideas never really scaled very well. City and civic planning was always a massive blind spot for them, and almost always revolved around the short-sighted dream of six-lane highways and cars in every garage (or just as frequently failed socio-economic dogmas). Brasilia is a terrible example of a community, it’s beauty really is only skin deep.

    Please try to remember Niemeyer for something else.

  9. I wish I was an Oscar Niemeyer villa
    that is what I’d truly like to be
    Cuz if I was an Oscar Neimeyer villa
    everyone would want to live inside of me!

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