Archive for September 28th, 2011

Old and New in São Paulo, Brazil

September 28, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (4)



Oscar Niemeyer’s Auditório Ibirapuera (inaugurated 2005), in Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo





Modernism and  cyber-medievalism




Entrance, Auditório Ibirapuera (the portal has been nicknamed Labareda which is Portuguese for ‘flame’).









At the age of 103, Niemeyer has plans for a university that will efface distinctions between disciplines – in order, as he says, ‘To eliminate the specialist man’.

I’m wondering when they’ll start taking applications.

For an interesting interview see:


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The common denominator of Niemeyer’s old and new projects is his consistent exploration of reinforced concrete’s versatility, his drive to create structures that seem lighter even as they become larger. ”My ambition has always been to reduce a building’s support to a minimum,” he reflects. ”The more we diminish supporting structures, the more audacious and important the architecture is. That has been my life’s work.” For that work he was awarded the 1988 Pritzker Prize.

Long a member of the communist party, Niemeyer is a vocal defender of left-wing governments in Brazil and abroad. His Bolivar monument, in Caracas, will be shaped like a lance pointing at the US. In an accompanying text to the Paco Imperial exhibition, he writes: ”Only in politics I am intransigent and radical – I am against Bush’s murderous empire, and against anyone who in this country opposes [president] Lula”.

Can politics and architecture mix? ”Architecture doesn’t matter,” Niemeyer tells me. ”Someone who is out on the streets protesting is doing a much more important job than I am. Politics matters. Changing the world matters because we live in a shit world.” What, I ask, can architecture do to change the world? Nothing, he replies.

Yet one of his current projects betrays an entrenched idealism – he has plans for a university designed to eradicate barriers between intellectual disciplines. ”To eliminate the specialist man”, he says solemnly, as if this worthy humanist ideal were not an ancient one.

There is a favourite phrase of Niemeyer’s. I have heard him say it at interviews, and read it in his books. Even as my 15 minutes run out, he is not prepared to let me go without reiterating it for my benefit: ”Life is more important than architecture.”

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