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  • One of the most remarkable aspects of the modernist movement in architecture was the idea

  • that buildings should pretty much look the same where ever on earth they happen to be. The early figures

  • of Modernism were united in their bitter opposition to any kind of 'regionalism', which they

  • saw as reactionary, folkloric and plain mediocre.

  • The Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer began

  • his career as an orthodox modernist.

  • He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907 – and developed a passion for architecture

  • in his early teens. As a young man he fell

  • in with a group that venerated the great European Modernist architects, especially Le Corbusier

  • who had insisted with particular vehemence on making sure buildings made no concession

  • whatever to the culture in which they were located. Niemeyer's professional ambitions

  • were realised when, in 1936, Le Corbusier came to Rio to design

  • the new Ministry of Education and Health and Niemeyer got a job on the project.

  • While working with him, Niemeyer retained the utmost respect

  • for Le Corbusier, but at the same time, he couldn't help but observe how blind his

  • guest was to the particularities of Brazilian culture and climate. With what would become

  • his legendary charm, Niemeyer managed to persuade Le Corbusier to abandon some of his more hard-edged

  • 'universalist' ideas and to start to make some concessions to local conditions.

  • Under Niemeyer's influence, the building's windows acquired shades against the sun and,

  • even an enormous traditional

  • Portuguese piece of tile work, done up with abstract motifs, for the public areas on the

  • ground floor. Emboldened by his success

  • Niemeyer felt ready to break free from European Modernism. He is now celebrated for being

  • the first architect anywhere in the world to practice a regional kind of Modernism:

  • in his case, a Brazilian-infused modernism. His first wholly original work was completed

  • in 1943 (when he was 36), the church of Saint Francis of Assisi.

  • The church had no straight lines

  • on any plane, for Niemeyer now judged these to be European and in many ways authoritarian.

  • Niemeyer was henceforth to include curves in all his buildings, and saw them in a nationalistic

  • light as being particularly Brazilian in nature. He remarked;

  • What attracts me is the free and sensual curvethe curve that I find in the mountains of my country,

  • in the sinuous course of its rivers and in the bodies of beautiful Brazilian women.”

  • The latter point about women is telling. Niemeyer was deeply responsive to female beauty throughout his

  • life. He was famous around Rio for his affairs, many with people dramatically younger than

  • he was. At 92, he acquired a girlfriend who had just turned 25. As in the Ministry of

  • Health, the Pampulha Church had tiles across it. They reminded viewers that Brazil could

  • be both modern and yet recall its heritagethat a church might nod towards the forms of a

  • futuristic airplane hanger, and yet could at the same time accommodate a depiction of

  • Saint Francis.

  • Niemeyer's most audacious attempt to use architecture to define Brazilian identity

  • came with his designs for the new capital, Brasília. In 1956, Kubitschek asked Niemeyer

  • to help create a wholly planned city in the centre of the country, free from the corruption

  • of the old capital in Rio. Niemeyer drew up the National Congress, a cathedral, a cultural

  • complex, many ministries and commercial and residential buildings. The atmosphere was

  • dignified, hopeful, and in touch with the native environment. Apartment buildings were

  • lifted on stilts to allow vegetation to grow beneath them, maintaining a connection with

  • the local ecology and tropical climate. Of course, Niemeyer's works depicted Brazil

  • not as it was, but as he believed and hoped it might one day be.

  • Brasilia imagines the Brazil of the future;

  • it is a glass and reinforced concrete ideal for the country to develop towards. In the

  • future, so the capitol argues, Brazil will be a place where rationality is powerful;

  • where order and harmony reign; where elegance and serenity are normal.

  • Niemeyer was prolific until his very last

  • years, teaching around the world, writing and designing sculptures and furniture. He

  • died in 2012, when he was 104 years old. He was given a hero's funeral and thousands

  • joined the cortege. What his nation was honouring was an architect who had given it a workable

  • yet ideal portrait of itself. He had enabled Brazil to break free from a sterile European

  • modernismand to create buildings that better reflected the nation's uniqueness.

  • Niemeyer remains an example to all architects who aspire to put up buildings that remember

  • the distinctiveness of their locationsarchitects who may like their computers or their phones to be universal

  • in design, but are as keen for their buildings to be culturally specific.

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One of the most remarkable aspects of the modernist movement in architecture was the idea

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/04
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