Thoughts on the death of Oscar Niemeyer. For more see my book ‘Brazil: Modern Architectures in History’ (Reaktion, 2009)


The great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer who died on 5 December, was a character for sure. I met him in 2001 on a visit to Rio and Brasilia that a few years later led to a book and a few articles. A Carioca friend, a composer, put me in touch with Niemeyer and we secured an appointment at his Copacabana office. Driving downtown to the appointment I was paralysed with nerves, not helped by some mischievous advice from my friend’s brother-in-law on how to address the great man. ‘O senhor Niemeyer. Você e um Saco’ (Mr Niemeyer. You are a pain in the arse’). We arrived at a turquoise art deco block on the beachfront, went to the top floor, entered the office, and were shown to a desk adorned with a large black-and-white photograph of two young women lying on their backs, naked. A tiny, prune-like man in a crisp shirt greeted…

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