Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Architect In The Bend

The straight line is simple; it sets a limit, normalizes the extraordinary and registers a purpose. But to Oscar Niemeyer, one of the greatest architects of the 20th century who passed away last week, the straight line was the enemy.
To Niemeyer, the straight line was a man-made invention, utterly rigid and full of constraints. While movements such as the Bauhaus based their design dialogue on right angles and straight lines, Niemayer held them in disregard, saying, "The rule is the worst thing. You just want to break it."
This was despite the fact that Niemeyer was a modernist himself, deeply inspired by peers such as Le Co busier with whom he worked on the remarkably rectangular headquarters of the UN in New York. He was, however, averse to devote himself to a particular style and when asked if form followed function, he would reply, "Form follows beauty."
Niemeyer believed in curves, which he said reminded him of the sensuality of the feminine form on the sun-kissed beaches of his native Brazil. They allowed his designs to break away from the monotony that was dictating modernism and reflect a more optimistic and liberating nature of architecture, often culminating in surprise, as at the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Sao Paolo, and delight, as at the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro.
Niemeyer's legacy is preserved in Brasilia, Brazil's federal capital, which he was commissioned to build in the 1950s. The largest city that didn't exist before the 20th century, Brasilia is as sensuous as any capital could be, with the great halls of Congress resembling giant demos and cauldrons and low-roofed administrative. buildings revealing subtler bends. There, the Cathedral of Brasilia is considered one of Niemeyer's greatest achievements. Using 16 parabolas to connect a high circular roof in the center with shades of tinted glass, the Cathedral boasts an audacious design and is a reminder of an architect who is one quoted to have said "Of curves is made all the universe".

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