Niemeyer, Oscar (1907–2012) By Johnson, Michael
Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho, better known as Oscar Niemeyer, was a prolific Brazilian architect and one of the leading Latin American exponents of international Modernism. Like Le Corbusier, whom he admired, he explored the aesthetic possibilities of reinforced concrete, but used the plasticity of the medium to transcend the rigid dogmatism of European Modernism, while evoking elements of the Brazilian landscape. His reputation rests primarily on the ceremonial buildings he created for the utopian capital of Brazil, but at the time of his death in 2012 he had completed approximately 600 works throughout the Americas, Africa, and Europe.
Niemeyer attended the National School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro from 1929 to 1934. He worked in the office of the influential Brazilian architect and urban planner Lúcio Costa in 1932, a professional partnership that would last decades and result in many important works of modern architecture. From 1936–1943 Niemeyer was a member of the team of Brazilian architects working with Le Corbusier on the new building for the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 29, he was assigned as a draftsman for Le Corbusier, but the changes he introduced after Le Corbusier’s departure convinced Costa to appoint him as the project's lead architect. The building, a horizontal bar bisected by a vertical slab, became an icon of Brazilian architecture and attracted international recognition.