Untitled (Drawing for Brasilia/Planalto Palace)
Brazil, 1964
Oscar Niemeyer

Ink on paper
11¾ × 18”

Oscar Niemeyer was a landmark figure of the Brazilian modern architectural movement who over the course of his lifetime designed more than 500 projects around the world. His designs were known for their free-flowing forms, relationship to the natural environment, and unique approach to straight versus curved lines. Niemeyer frequently worked in concrete thus exemplifying his creative ability to design lightness from dense material.

Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907, he studied at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes from 1929 until 1934. In 1932, he joined the firm of his mentor and renowned modernist architect and urban planner Lúcio Costa. The firm’s collaboration in 1936 with Le Corbusier on the Ministry of Education and Health building in Rio de Janeiro was celebrated as Brazil’s emergence as a force in modern design. Niemeyer’s first major project came in 1941 when he was commissioned to design the Pampulha Architectural Complex—now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

During the 1950s, he was appointed chief architect of public buildings, overseeing the design and planning of the new capital of Brasilia. The city, built entirely on modernist design principles, was meant to attract attention and represent the spirit of Brazil. Other significant projects included the Brazilian Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair (1939), his family home Casa Das Canoas in Rio de Janeiro (1951), the United Nations building in New York City (1953), and the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (1991). Niemeyer has been awarded such honors as the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988 and the gold medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1998. His work was celebrated by major retrospectives at the Pompidou Center, Paris and the Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro in his lifetime. —Wright

(Photo: Wright)