Architectural Titan

The Life and Work of Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer (PHOTOS)

The architect died Wednesday at 104. Take a tour of his designs, from Brasilia to the United Nations.

Ricardo Moraes / AP Photo

By The Daily Beast


World renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer was 104 when he passed away Dec. 5, leaving behind a celebrated body of work. His style relied heavily on concrete and glass, but he was also known for implementing what he referred to as “sensual curves” into his buildings. Niemeyer, who worked until his death, helped design the United Nations complex in New York City and Museum of Modern Art in Niterói, Brazil. The Daily Beast takes a look back at his life and work.

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Niemeyer played a large role in modernizing the city of Brasilia, Brazil’s capital. He designed many of the Cabinet buildings and the national museum, and while detractors said the city lacked soul, Niemeyer shrugged off the criticism.

Eraldo Peres / AP Photo

The Niemeyer-designed National Congress is reflected in water in Brasilia. The metropolis, inaugurated on April 21, 1960, was envisioned as a dream city, a transformational architectural project to thrust the South American nation ahead by building a modern capital in the wilds of Brazil’s vast interior savanna region.

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The Brasilia Cathedral was inaugurated by President Juscelino Kubitschek on April 21, 1960, when the government’s seat was moved from Rio de Janerio to Brasilia. Here is a look at the stunning interior.

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Niemeyer’s masterpiece from afar: the Brasilia Cathedral. Born in December 1907 in Rio, Niemeyer was first noticed when he helped his mentors, Brazilian urban planner Lucio Costa and French architect Le Corbusier, design the ministry of education and culture building in Rio de Janeiro.

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The unusual Liberty Pantheon, or “Panteão da Liberdade,” in Brasilia was designed by Niemeyer. The asymmetric stained-glass windows are especially impressive.

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This photo of the nighttime view of Brasilia’s Palacio da Alvorada and its presidential swimming pool, which highlights a bronze sculpture by Alfredo Ceschiatti, was snapped in 1961.

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There is no type of building Niemeyer was afraid to tackle—from government to church. Brasilia’s Supreme Court looks eerie at night. In 2007, shortly before his 100th birthday, he was made Grand Commander of the Legion of Honor, a prestigious award bestowed by the French government.

Eraldo Peres / AP Photo

The main boulevard in Brasilia is an ode to Niemeyer’s work, with his designs stretching as far as the eye can see.

Inigo Bujedo Aguirre, View / Corbis

The Niemeyer Center in Aviles, Spain, is a standout piece of modern architecture, and the designer’s first and only work in Spain. It was inaugurated on May 26, 2011, with a jazz concert by Woody Allen.

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The Oscar Niemeyer Center in Spain features an auditorium, an open square, a dome, a tower, and a multipurpose building.

Inigo Bujedo Aguirre, View / UIG / Getty Images

A general view of the Niemeyer Center’s public plaza, with tower and auditorium.

AP Photo

This church in Lake Pampulha, Brazil, designed by Niemeyer and shown in this 1951 photo, was refused for consecration by the Roman Catholic Church.

Paulo Fridman / Corbis

You wouldn’t imagine the Oscar Niemeyer Museum being anything less than spectacular, would you? This futuristic building is located in the Brazilian city of Curitibal.

Paulo Fridman / Corbis

A long, winding stairway greets the visitor at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rio de Janeiro. The dramatic, UFO-like building is set on a cliff and overlooks a beach.

Roberto Salomone, AFP / Getty Images

A view of Ravello’s Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer, the day of its official inauguration on Jan. 29, 2009. After 10 years of controversy, the Niemeyer-designed auditorium opened in the southern Italian town on the Amalfi coast.

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This view of the Rocinha shantytown in Rio de Janeiro features a footbridge designed by Niemeyer in the foreground. An urban neighborhood of 250,000 residents, Rocinha has been ravaged by drug violence.

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Niemeyer was a key figure in the design of New York’s United Nations headquarters in 1947. Until his death, he was the last surviving member of the team that designed this building. “I was saddened to learn of the death of Oscar Niemeyer, a towering figure and one of the original architects of United Nations headquarters,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday in a statement.