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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About Richard J Williams

Professor of contemporary visual cultures and head of history of art at the University of Edinburgh, UK. Books on cities include 'The Anxious City' (Routledge, 2004), 'Brazil' (Reaktion 2009), 'Regenerating Culture and Society' (edited with Jonathan Harris, LUP 2010), and 'Sex and Buildings' (Reaktion, 2013). Writing a new book about Reyner Banham.

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