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Curved, sweeping lines of concrete define the work of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who himself once remarked, “I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves.” Strongly influenced by the organic, Niemeyer’s buildings are at once familiar and strange, too futuristic and innovative to reference anything that came before it, yet doubly reminiscent of rivers, bodies, and that extraterrestrial dreamscape known as The Jetsons. The future is now. That is and was always the promise of his work.
For decades, following his start in the trade during the 1930s until his death in 2012, Niemeyer helped create a distinct, national architecture and, with it, a visual identity. Concrete allowed the plasticity of form Niemeyer looked for--a way to escape the rigidity of previous architectural movements. “There is no reason to design buildings that are more basic and rectilinear,” the architect said of his material of choice, “because with concrete you can cover almost any space.” Heavy, yes. Dense, surely. Capable of structures never before seen? You bet.
Along with Modernist contemporaries Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, Niemeyer helped create the language of postwar architecture. It was ambitious, forward looking, economical, new, charging confidently forward more than any that which had come before it and, arguably, those that have come since.
Photos courtesy of Chicquero.