Appreciation for a Modern Master

Paul Goldberger offers a remembrance of the "last lion" of Modernism - Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer - who passed away earlier this week at the age of 104.

Niemeyer outlived his peers, worked until the last of his days, and through his 104 years, says Goldberger, "[h]is commitment to the notion that modernism could make life richer, freer, more spirited, and more meaningful also remained fully intact. You could call Niemeyer the last of the true believers, but he was more than that: an extraordinary blend of passion, arrogance, and naivety, seasoned, I suspect, with more than a little craftiness."

Of course, it's not possible to think of Niemeyer without the ties to his native country - he did after all design much of its futuristic new capital. As Goldberger explains, "Niemeyer was not just an architect who came from Brazil; he was Brazil, as much as Pele or the samba. His swirling forms and his curving lines replaced modernism’s harshness with softness and ease. Niemeyer didn’t compromise modernism’s utopian ideals, but when filtered through his sensibility, the stern, unforgiving rigor of so much European modernism became as smooth as Brazilian jazz. His work is sensuous, almost hedonistic."

And of his most famous creation, the controversial capital, Goldberger adds that, "Niemeyer lived long enough to see Brasilia admired, fall out of favor, and be admired again as a triumph of mid-20th-century design, which is how it ought to be seen—not as a model for how the world should live or how cities should be built, but as a thing unto itself, a fully realized product of a set of deeply held beliefs that, at least for a period, were shared by an entire national government."

Full Story:  Remembering Oscar Niemeyer: The Architect Who Gave Modernism a Little Samba Flair

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