Oscar Niemeyer (1907–2012) was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro. A childhood passion for drawing led him to pursue a career in architecture, and he entered the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, from which he graduated in 1934. Shortly before his graduation, Niemeyer was hired by architect Lúcio Costa; together, they were tasked with the design of Rio’s Ministry of Education and Health building. The Palácio Gustavo Capanema, as it’s known today, was raised on pilotis, slim supportive columns, and notable for its glass façade, which was articulated with adjustable sun shades or brises-soleil. The success of this project led to a longstanding collaboration with fellow architect Le Corbusier.
In 1947, Niemeyer joined with Le Corbusier to design the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Each architect was responsible for developing his own design. However, it was a combination of the two plans that eventually won approval. Consisting of the General Assembly, the Secretariat, and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, the complex is still considered a prime example of the International Style. By the time the buildings were completed in 1953, Niemeyer had left New York and returned to Brazil, where his reputation had garnered him national pride and respect.
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY FERNANDO LASZLO
WRITTEN BY JAMES SLATE
This story appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of MILIEU.