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Oscar Niemeyer and Brazilian Free-Form Modernism

by David Kendrick Underwood

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Oscar Niemeyer, born in 1907, is widely considered this century's leading Latin American architect, as well as one of the pioneers of modern architecture.This volume explores the major themes and sources of the most important works from all phases of Niemeyer's career, from the early collaborations of the 1930s and 1940s with Lucio Costa, the spiritual father of Brazilian modernism, to the 1989 Memorial da America Latina in Sao Paulo, a complex that reveals the maturation of Niemeyer's free-form style in the service of his utopian vision.A central theme of Niemeyer's work has been its reflection of the Brazilian jeito, a sinuous and improvisational style manifested in everything from the country's sensual, undulating landscape to its attraction to spontaneous impulses, best known through its vibrant music and dance. The jeito and the milieu of Rio de Janeiro lie at the heart of Niemeyer's free-form style, which emphasizes the inherent plasticity of the native curve over the rigid rectilinearity of the International Style in Europe.A second theme treats the influence on Niemeyer of the poetic style of Le Corbusier.Also considered are Niemeyer's attraction to surrealist biomorphic forms and his desire to express a sense of the fantastic in architecture. A final theme is Niemeyer's search for an aesthetic utopia that would resolve social dilemmas by wishing them away through architecture. Herein lies Niemeyer's strength, for as his architecture reflects the multiple dichotomies of the Brazilian experience, it projects an emotive universality that few architects have been able to achieve.… (more)
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Oscar Niemeyer, born in 1907, is widely considered this century's leading Latin American architect, as well as one of the pioneers of modern architecture.This volume explores the major themes and sources of the most important works from all phases of Niemeyer's career, from the early collaborations of the 1930s and 1940s with Lucio Costa, the spiritual father of Brazilian modernism, to the 1989 Memorial da America Latina in Sao Paulo, a complex that reveals the maturation of Niemeyer's free-form style in the service of his utopian vision.A central theme of Niemeyer's work has been its reflection of the Brazilian jeito, a sinuous and improvisational style manifested in everything from the country's sensual, undulating landscape to its attraction to spontaneous impulses, best known through its vibrant music and dance. The jeito and the milieu of Rio de Janeiro lie at the heart of Niemeyer's free-form style, which emphasizes the inherent plasticity of the native curve over the rigid rectilinearity of the International Style in Europe.A second theme treats the influence on Niemeyer of the poetic style of Le Corbusier.Also considered are Niemeyer's attraction to surrealist biomorphic forms and his desire to express a sense of the fantastic in architecture. A final theme is Niemeyer's search for an aesthetic utopia that would resolve social dilemmas by wishing them away through architecture. Herein lies Niemeyer's strength, for as his architecture reflects the multiple dichotomies of the Brazilian experience, it projects an emotive universality that few architects have been able to achieve.

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