»Intelligence starts with improvisation.«

Yona Friedman

Blog Obituary

The Man From Rio

Oscar Niemeyer 1907-2012

With the passing of Oscar Niemeyer, it feels like, to quote the old phrase: the future is not what it was any more. Whilst he is often seen as following on in the line of succession from Le Corbusier as one of the masters of modernism, Niemeyer was actually very critical of the machine aesthetic, famously saying: “My work is not about ‘form follows function’, but ‘form follows beauty’ or, even better, ‘form follows feminine’.”

He died on December 5th in Rio de Janeiro, the city where he was born and bred. But the city with which his name will be forever associated is Brasília, the new capital of Brasil from 1960, planned from scratch by Lúcio Costa, with Niemeyer as the principal architect. The main government buildings he designed there seemed to encapsulate the future - in particular the twin standing sentinels of the National Congress at the head of the monumental axis, flanked by the shallow bowl of the Chamber of Deputies and the dome of the Senate. So as tribute we thought we'd show a clip from the film The Man from Rio from 1964, in which Jean-Paul Belmondo is chased across the vast construction site that was Brasília at the time. As Niemeyer said, quoting another great Frenchman Albert Camus: “Camus says in ‘The Stranger’ that reason is the enemy of imagination. Sometimes you have to put reason aside and make something beautiful.”

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