NIEMEYER, OSCAR. Stamo Papadaki: OSCAR NIEMEYER: WORKS IN PROGRESS. New York: Reinhold [1956] second printing, 1958.

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OSCAR NIEMEYER: WORKS IN PROGRESS

Stamo Papadaki

Stamo Papadaki: OSCAR NIEMEYER: WORKS IN PROGRESS. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1956. Second printing, 1958. Square quarto. Orange cloth decorated in black. Photo illustrated dust jacket. 192 pp. 325 black and white photographs and illustrations. Former owners signature to front free endpaper. Jacket lightly rubbed and edgeworn with a vintage tape reinforcement to spine crown. A nice copy of a book rarely found in collectible condition --a very good copy in a very good dust jacket.

“The architect's role is to fight for a better world, where he can produce an architecture that serves everyone and not just a group of privileged people.” — Oscar Niemeyer

7.25 x 10 book with 192 pages with 325 black and white photographs, drawings, plans and models for thirty buildings and projects, 1950-1956. An excellent early survey of one of the master architects of the twentieth century.

  • Foreword
  • Notes on Brazilian Architecture by Oscar Niemeyer
  • PART 1: IN THE SCALE OF A SUBCONTINENT
  • Quintadinha Aprtments
  • Copan Building
  • Governor Kubitschenk Building
  • Hospital Sul America
  • Montreal Building
  • Bank Mineiro de Producao
  • PART II: FORM—STRUCTURE—FORM
  • The Niemeyer House
  • Cavanelas House
  • Caracas Modern Art Museum
  • Diamantina Hotel
  • Julia Kubitschenk School
  • Diamantina Airport
  • Diamantina Club
  • Chapel
  • Service Station
  • Club Libanez
  • the São Paolo Exposition Center:  Hall of States, Hall of Nations, Hall of Industry, Auditorium & Arts Pavilion
  • Belo Horizonte Secondary School
  • PART III: TASKS
  • Air Center Housing
  • Foundation Vargas Headquarters
  • Berlin Housing
  • Corumbã School
  • Miranda House
  • Pigmateri House
  • De Lima House
  • A Television Station

Brazilian architect Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho (1907 - 2012) is considered one of the most important names in international modern architecture. He was a pioneer in the exploration of the constructive possibilities of reinforced concrete. Although he was a defender of utilitarianism, his creations did not have the blocky coldness frequently criticized by post-modern critics. His buildings have forms so dynamic and curves so sensual that many admirers say that he is more monumental as a sculptor than as an architect.

Oscar Niemeyer grew up in a wealthy Rio de Janeiro family without any aspirations toward being an architect, though he started drawing at an early age. “When I was very little,” he later recalled, “my mother said I used to draw in the air with my fingers. I needed a pencil. Once I could hold one, I have drawn every day since.” After graduating from Barnabitas College in 1923, Niemeyer wed a woman named Annita Baldo, to whom he would remain married until her death in 2004.

As a young man, Niemeyer worked for his father at a typography house for a short while before entering the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, from which he graduated in 1934. Shortly before graduation, he joined the offices of Lúcio Costa, an architect from the Modernist school. Niemeyer worked with Costa on many major buildings between 1936 and 1943, including the design for Brazil's Ministry of Education and Health building, which was part of a collaboration with Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. Costa and Niemeyer also worked together on Brazil's iconic pavilion in the 1939 New York World's Fair; legendary Mayor Fiorello La Guardia was so impressed with Niemeyer's design that he declared him an honorary citizen of New York.

In 1941, Niemeyer launched his solo career by designing a series of buildings called the Pampulha Architectural Complex in the city of Belo Horizonte. Here, Niemeyer started developing some of his design trademarks, including the heavy use of concrete and a propensity toward curves. “I consciously ignored the highly praised right angle and the rational architecture of T-squares and triangles,” he said, “in order to wholeheartedly enter the world of curves and new shapes made possible by the introduction of concrete into the building process.”

Niemeyer's status as a rising star in the architectural world was confirmed when he was chosen to represent Brazil as part of the team to design the new headquarters of the United Nations in New York City; the final building was based primarily on Niemeyer's design, with significant elements also taken from his old collaborator, Corbusier. Following the completion of the United Nations building in 1953, Niemeyer won an appointment as dean of Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, but he was refused an American work visa by the United States government due to his membership in Brazil's Communist Party.

In 1956, Juscelino Kubitschek, the president of Brazil and a close friend of Niemeyer, came to the architect with a proposal, asking Niemeyer to become the new chief architect of public buildings in the country's new capital, Brasilia, a Modernist civic metropolis being built from scratch in the interior of the country. Niemeyer eagerly accepted, designing buildings that went along with his utopian vision of government. “This was a liberating time,” he said. “It seemed as if a new society was being born, with all the traditional barriers cast aside .... when planning the government buildings for Brasilia I decided they should be characterized by their own structures within the prescribed shapes ... I tried to push the potential of concrete to its limits, especially at the load-bearing points, which I wanted to be as delicate as possible so that it would seem as if the palaces barely touched the ground.”

Niemeyer designed several buildings in Brasilia, including the presidential palace, the Brasília Palace Hotel, the Ministry of Justice building, the presidential chapel and the cathedral. After the inauguration of the new capital city in 1960, Niemeyer resigned from his position as the government's chief architect and returned to private practice.

Niemeyer had become interested in Communist ideology as a youth and joined the Brazilian Communist Party in 1945. This became a serious problem in 1964, when the Brazilian military overthrew the government in a coup; Niemeyer, viewed by the army as an individual with dangerously left-wing sympathies, had his office ransacked. Spooked, the architect left the country of his birth a year later, in 1965, resettling in France and mainly designing buildings in Europe and northern Africa. He also turned to designing furniture, which also included his trademark use of sinuous curves. Niemeyer did not return to Brazil until the end of the military dictatorship in 1985.

Niemeyer received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988, the highest award in the profession, for his Cathedral of Brasilia. In his acceptance speech, Niemeyer explained his design philosophy: “My architecture followed the old examples—beauty prevailing over the limitations of the constructive logic. My work proceeded, indifferent to the unavoidable criticism set forth by those who take the trouble to examine the minimum details, so very true of what mediocrity is capable of. It was enough to think of Le Corbusier saying to me once while standing on the ramp of the Congress: 'There is invention here.'“

Semi-retired since the mid-1980s, at the age of 103 Oscar Niemeyer still went into his office every day to work on designs and oversee projects. Having outlived most of his old friends, intellectual sparring partners and his wife of 60 years—though he remarried in 2006, to his longtime assistant Vera Lucia Cabreira—Niemeyer continued to press for a better world through better design. “It is important,” he once said, “that the architect think not only of architecture but of how architecture can solve the problems of the world. The architect's role is to fight for a better world, where he can produce an architecture that serves everyone and not just a group of privileged people.”

Niemeyer died in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on December 5, 2012. He was 104 years old. A funeral service was held in Brasilia, at the presidential palace he designed more than 50 years earlier.

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