Oscar Niemeyer

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Oscar Niemeyer, 1977

Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho (* as Oscar de Almeida Soares on December 15, 1907 in Rio de Janeiro ; †  December 5, 2012 there ) was a Brazilian architect . He is considered a pioneer of modern Brazilian architecture. Niemeyer designed numerous public buildings for the Brazilian capital Brasília , which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 . In 2013, its architectural drawings and construction plans were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO .


Niemeyer was one of six children from a Catholic family in Rio de Janeiro. His father worked as a typesetter and had a graphic design office, and his grandfather was a judge at the Brazilian Supreme Court. Niemeyer later adopted the German surname of his paternal grandparents. His maternal grandparents were members of the Brazilian Communist Party.

Its German name goes back to Konrad Heinrich von Niemeyer (1761-1806), who emigrated from Hanover to Portugal in 1778 and worked there as a surveyor. His father Jakob Konrad von Niemeyer (1730–1808) in turn was major general and regiment chief of Cavalry Regiment No. 8 in the service of the Electorate of Braunschweig-Lüneburg ; he had Count Wilhelm of Schaumburg-Lippe ( port. : Conde de Lippe ) support to successfully repel the Spanish invasion of 1762 in Portugal.

life and work

Oscar Niemeyer in the 1950s
Oscar Niemeyer, 2006

He graduated from the Catholic Barnabite High School in Rio. In 1928 Oscar Niemeyer began studying architecture at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes , the national art school in Rio de Janeiro , which he graduated in 1934. He then worked in the office of the Brazilian architect and urban planner Lúcio Costa . The contract to Costa's office to build the first modern Brazilian building, the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro (today's Palace of Culture ), brought Niemeyer and Le Corbusier together. This later made him his assistant. In 1945 Niemeyer joined the Brazilian Communist Party ( Partido Comunista Brasileiro - PCB). In the years 1947 to 1953 he was the representative of Le Corbusier in the planning committee of the UN for the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City . The collaboration with Le Corbusier was to have a strong influence on Niemeyer's work by later adding circles and curves to the strict orthogonality of modern architecture.

Early on, Niemeyer relied almost exclusively on reinforced concrete as a building material, for which he opened up new application possibilities. In its futuristic and sculptural design language with curvy, soft contours, it always maintained a balanced relationship between free space and volume. He almost completely renounced the orthogonality of many of his colleagues. His bold and unconventional designs established his reputation as one of the most important representatives and innovators of architectural modernism . He didn't think much of the Bauhaus , which in his opinion, with its monotonous, repetitive rules, inhibited the development of architecture.

The best known are his designs for the construction of the planned Brazilian capital Brasília between 1957 and 1964. All public buildings in the city planned on the drawing board come from his hand. Lúcio Costa became its executive city planner. In 1987, UNESCO declared Brasília a World Heritage Site .

In 1966, two years after the military had seized power in 1964 , Niemeyer went into exile in France because of his membership in the Communist Party of Brazil. At the end of the 1960s he was able to continue his work in Brazil. Among other things, he taught at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), but only returned to Brazil in 1982 after the general amnesty in 1979. During his years in exile, he built the headquarters of the French Communist Party in Paris, the House of Culture in Le Havre and the Mondadori publishing house in Milan. In 1990 he left the party, but remained a Marxist.

Niemeyer had a close friendship with the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro . One of his last works is a steel sculpture in Havana that symbolizes Cuba's resistance to the economic blockade imposed by the USA . It was completed on December 15, 2007, the 100th birthday of Niemeyer.

Niemeyer died on December 5, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro shortly before his 105th birthday of complications from a melanoma . The governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral, ordered a three-day state mourning in the state. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Brazil has lost a genius, a revolutionary and the mentor of a new architecture.

Marriages and offspring

Niemeyer married Annita Baldo (Annita Oscar Niemeyer) in 1928, a daughter of Italian immigrants from Padua . In 1930 their daughter Anna Maria was born, Oscar Niemeyer's only child. She later worked as an architect, furniture designer and gallery owner. Annita Niemeyer died in 2004 at the age of 93, after 76 years of marriage. The daughter Anna Maria died on June 6, 2012 at the age of 82, before her father.

On November 16, 2006, one month before his 99th birthday, Oscar Niemeyer married his secretary Vera Lúcia Cabreira, who was 38 years his junior. When he died in December 2012, he left behind his second wife, four grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren and several great-great-grandchildren.

Works (selection)

Realized projects

Oscar Niemeyer is one of the most creative architects of the 20th century. He realized a total of more than 600 buildings. He himself divided his work into five periods: Pampulha, Pampulha to Brasília, Brasília, buildings overseas (Paris, Milan, etc.) and late works. A number of buildings are considered modern architecture icons .

Projects under construction

Around twenty projects are being set up in several countries.

Dilapidated projects

  • Rachid Karami International Fair in Tripoli (Lebanon) - 1968–1974. After Niemeyer's drafts were u. a. built a domed structure for an experimental theater, an open-air stage, a multi-purpose hall and a museum. The Lebanese civil war that broke out in 1975 prevented the exhibition center from being completed. The buildings have now fallen into disrepair.

Unrealized projects

  • Leisure pool in Potsdam - 2007
  • Praça de Soberania - Brasília, Brazil.


The British architect Zaha Hadid confessed that Niemeyer's style had had the greatest influence on her.

The documentary Oscar Niemeyer - Life is a breath (original title: Oscar Niemeyer - A vida é um sopro ) about the life and work of the architect was released in German cinemas on January 14, 2010. The documentary took ten years to complete. The writers Eduardo Galeano and José Saramago , the songwriter Chico Buarque and the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm were interviewed as companions of Niemeyer's .

Awards (excerpt)


Oscar Niemeyer, 1968

“The right angle doesn't attract me, and neither does the straight, hard, inflexible line that humans have created. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve that I find in the mountains of my country, in the meandering course of its rivers, in the clouds of the sky, in the body of my beloved woman. The whole universe is made of curves. Einstein's curved universe . "

- Oscar Niemeyer, 1996

"You have to fight against the functionalist architecture that uses reinforced concrete to create rectangular and barren rooms."

- Oscar Niemeyer

"The architecture consists of dream, fantasy, curves and empty spaces."

- Oscar Niemeyer

"The communists are the only ones who still want to create a better world."

- Oscar Niemeyer, 2008
About Niemeyer

"The future will never look as good again as with the Brazilian man's buildings."


  • Oscar Niemeyer: Minha arquitetura, 1937-2005. Revan, Rio de Janeiro 2005, ISBN 85-7106-325-7 , (Portuguese).
  • Oscar Niemeyer: Curves of Time. The Memoirs of Oscar Niemeyer. Phaidon Press, London 2000, ISBN 0-7148-4007-6 , (English).
  • Oscar Niemeyer: We have to change the world. Verlag Antje Kunstmann, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-88897-871-5 . (Original edition: Il mondo è ingiusto. Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Milano 2012, ISBN 978-88-04-62321-2 .)


  • Christian Hornig: Oscar Niemeyer. Buildings and projects. Ernst & Sohn, Berlin 1981, ISBN 3-7879-0213-9 .
  • David Kendrick Underwood: Oscar Niemeyer and the Architecture of Brazil. Rizzoli, New York, NY 1994, ISBN 0-8478-1687-7 .
  • Jan Op Gen Oorth: Oscar Niemeyer - Architect of Modernism. In: Tópicos - Deutsch-Brasilianische Hefte , Vol. 43, No. 2, 2003, pp. 42–45, ISSN  0949-541X , ( topicos.net , PDF; 230 kB).
  • Heike Werner: Rio de Janeiro for architects. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Werner, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-9809471-7-6 . (First edition 2003).
  • Ingeborg flag , Paul Andreas: Oscar Niemeyer. A Legend Of Modernism. Edition Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2003, ISBN 3-7643-6992-2 , (German, English).
  • Alan Hess: Oscar Niemeyer. Houses. DVA, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-421-03580-6 .
  • Robert Cohen : Future glory of the test-tube city of Brasília. In: Das Argument , Vol. 50, No. 1, 2008, pp. 83-92.
  • Yukio Futagawa: Oscar Niemeyer. Form & Space . ADA Edita, Tokyo 2008, ISBN 978-4-87140-490-7 .
  • Alan Hess: Oscar Niemeyer - Buildings for the Public. Photos by Alan Weintraub. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2009, 367 p., Overw. Ill., ISBN 978-3-421-03748-0 .
  • Philip Jodidio: Oscar Niemeyer. Taschen Verlag, Cologne 2012, ISBN 978-3-8365-3061-3 .
  • Lucien Clergue : Brasilia - the architect Oscar Niemeyer and the photographer Luoien Clergue, the erotomaniac of the curve. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2013, German-language edition: ISBN 978-3-7757-3550-6 , English-language edition: ISBN 978-3-7757-3313-7 .


  • Oscar Niemeyer - Life is a breath. (Original title: Oscar Niemeyer - A vida é um sopro. ) Documentation ( OmU ), Brazil, 2007, 85 min., Book: Jacques Cheuiche, Fabiano Maciel, director: Fabiano Maciel, production: Sacha, German cinema release: January 14, 2010 , among others with José Saramago , Chico Buarque , Eric Hobsbawm , review:.
  • Mister Brasilia - Oscar Niemeyer. Documentary film, Austria, 2007, 30 min., Script and direction: Alexander W. Rauscher, production: ORF , summary by 3sat, ( memento from February 10, 2013 in the web archive archive.today ).
  • Oscar Niemeyer - The Curves of Life. Documentary, Germany, 2007, 29:14 min., Script and direction: Andreas Krieger, production: Bayerischer Rundfunk , summary by ARD , online video .

Web links

Commons : Oscar Niemeyer  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


For the 100th birthday


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Architectural Archive of Oscar Niemeyer. In: UNESCO - Memory of the World. June 2013, accessed June 20, 2013 .
  2. ^ Carlos Albuquerque: Oscar Niemeyer: "Life is a breath." In: Deutsche Welle , December 5, 2012.
  3. a b Nicolai Ouroussoff: Oscar Niemeyer, Architect Who Gave Brasília Its flair, this at 104. In: New York Times , December 5, 2012 Design.
  4. ^ Cor. Konrad Heinrich von Niemeyer. ( Memento of March 6, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) In: Famílias de Leiria ( Families from Leiria , Portuguese, accessed December 4, 2012).
  5. ^ Instituto Geográfico do Exército: Portugal em vésperas invasões francesas. Conhecimento geográfico & configurações. ( Memento of November 7, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), catalog for the exhibition in Lisbon 2007, (PDF; 3.12 MB), ISBN 978-989-21-0086-9 , chap. 36, p. 45, (Portuguese).
  6. Gen. Jakob Konrad von Niemeyer. In: Famílias de Leiria. , (Portuguese), accessed December 4, 2012.
  7. “A war of the poor against the rich”, Der Spiegel No. 11/2002, p. 254
  8. ^ A b Katharina Stegelmann, Petra Kleinau: Personal details: Oscar Niemeyer . In: Der Spiegel . No. 1 , 2009, p. 149 ( online ). “Oscar Niemeyer, 101, a Brazilian architect, has remained a Marxist at heart - even if he left the party in 1990 after 45 years of membership. 'The communists are the only ones who still want to create a better world', he praised [...] "
  9. ^ Merten Worthmann: Oscar Niemeyer - portrait. Curves in time and space. ( Memento from October 31, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) In: art - das kunstmagazin , December 6, 2012.
  10. Late bowing to Oscar Niemeyer. In: Granma Internacional / RotFuchs , No. 138, April 2013, p. 22, (PDF; 1.2 MB).
  11. a b Photo series by Rafael Luis Torralbas Ezpeleta and Juan de las Cuevas Toraya: Niemeyer en Cuba: Escultura en la Ciudad Universitaria de la UCI. La Habana, Cuba, 2008. In: vitruvius.com.br , 2010, (Spanish), quotation: “En el año 2007 se trabajó simultáneamente en la ejecución de la escultura en la fábrica Cubana de Acero y la plaza en la UCI , la cual se concluyó el day 15 de diciembre de ese año, en homenaje al Centenario de Niemeyer. "
  12. Oscar Niemeyer - a genius of world architecture is dead. In: Tagesspiegel , December 6, 2012.
  13. ^ Clive Walker: Niemeyer finds love at 98 with marriage to 60-year-old secretary. In: The architect's journal , November 20, 2006.
  14. ^ A b AFP , dpa : Star architect Oscar Niemeyer died. In: Zeit online , December 6, 2012.
  15. ^ Oscar Niemeyer: My architecture. / My architecture. Quoted in: Ingeborg Flagge , Paul Andreas: Oscar Niemeyer. A Legend Of Modernism. Edition Deutsches Architekturmuseum , Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2003, ISBN 3-7643-6992-2 , pp. 129-131, (German, English).
  16. Walter Haubrich: Despite all this, the same point of view applies to everyone. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of December 22, 2010, page 32.
  17. Niemeyer sphere finished. In: bauforum. Retrieved July 6, 2020 .
  18. Bruno Torturra Nogueira: Te Pego Lá Fora . In: Revista Trip . No. 184 . Trip, Brazil December 9, 2009, p. 150–156 (Portuguese, revistatrip.uol.com.br ).
  19. Fabíola Leoni: No lugar do prédio as Brahma, mais um toque de Niemeyer. In: O Globo . April 18, 2012, accessed on May 17, 2016 (Brazilian Portuguese): "O projeto do REC Sapucaí, que será erguido no antigo terreno da Brahma e deverá ficar pronto em julho de 2014."
  20. Monika Bolliger: The city that dreams of the past. The Lebanese Tripoli was a powerful provincial capital of Islamic empires and seems provincial today . In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung of May 27, 2017, p. 9.
  21. ^ Pelin Tan: An Experience of Ruin: Niemeyer's Tripoli Fairgrounds. In: Domus , March 27, 2012, with photo gallery.
  22. Chronicle of a bankruptcy: The slow end of the Niemeyer bath. In: Tagesspiegel , June 23, 2007.
  23. Sabine Schicketanz : Domes without a floor. In: Tagesspiegel , June 25, 2007.
  24. Architect Niemeyer distances himself from controversial building project. ( Memento from February 23, 2009 in the Internet Archive ). In: AFP , February 5, 2009.
  25. ^ Jury Citation. ( Memento from August 30, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) In: Pritzker Prize , 2004.
  26. ^ Rüdiger Suchsland : The tropical project of modernity . In: Telepolis , January 14, 2010.
  27. Alexandra Wach: Oscar Niemeyer - Life is a breath. In: film-dienst via filmzentrale.com .
  28. ^ Honorary Members: Oscar Niemeyer. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed March 17, 2019 .
  29. a b c from: Oscar Niemeyer: Paroles d'Architecte , Milan 1996, translated by Robert Schediwy : Städtebilder , LIT Verlag, Vienna 2005, p. 50 ff.
  30. Carmen Stephan : People need beauty . In: Der Spiegel . No. 50 , 2007 ( online ).
  31. Film review by Christina Tilmann: star Niemeyer. In: Tagesspiegel , January 15, 2010.