Oscar Niemeyer: 1907-2012

John Hill
Published on
Dec 17, 2012

Niemeyer at Brasilia during construction 
Congresso Nacional do Brasil at Brasilia. Photo: Eurico Zimbres/wikimedia commons 
In the weeks leading up to Oscar Niemeyer's death from a respiratory infection on December 5, the 104-year-old architect was in and out of the Hospital Samaritano in Rio de Janeiro for pneumonia, kidney problems, and dehydration. There were many laudatory obituaries for the Brazilian who believed architecture could make life better for people. A popular quote of his says, "I created [my architecture] with courage and idealism, but also with an awareness of the fact that what is important is life, friends and attempting to make this unjust world a better place in which to live."

What resonated for most architects and writers were the curves that made his buildings instantly recognizable. However some posthumous critiques pointed out the large-scale inhumanity of places like Brasilia even as they saw the beauty in his curves. While the legacy of his architecture and urban design is something to debate, the strength of Niemeyer's convictions (he was an unabashed Communist) is undeniable, as is his perseverance, which kept him working up to his death just shy of turning 105.