Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares (15 December 1907 – 5 December 2012) was born in Rio de Janeiro. He attended the city’s Escola de Belas Artes (Brazil), from which he graduated in 1934 under supervision of Lucio Costa. He worked with Le Corbusier planning Rio’s new Ministry of Education and Health and later on plans for the construction of a new United Nations building in New York, which was then carried out by Wallace Harrison and Max Abramovitz. In 1942, the mayor of Belo Horizonte, Juscelino Kubitschek, called on him to design leisure facilities at the Pampulha complex.
Niemeyer’s free-flowing forms and curved surfaces offered a change from the straight lines and square corners of the international style of modern European architecture in the 1930s.
In 1957, Kubitschek, who had by then become Brazil’s president, hired Niemeyer to design the public buildings for the new capital, Brasilia, including the National Congress, the Planalto Palace, the Supreme Court, the Palace of Foreign Affairs (Itamaraty) and the cathedral.
From that time on, Niemeyer’s fame escalated. However, following the military coup of 1964, the architect found it hard to continue working in his home country as he remained faithful to his political principles. He travelled often to Europe.
While in France, he designed the headquarters of the French communist party (1965-67) and the cultural centre of Le Harve (1972-82). In Italy, aside from the Mondadori building at Segrate (1968-75), he created headquarters for Fata Engineering at Pianezza (1976–81) and the Burgo paper mill at San Mauro Torinese (1978-81). When the dictatorship ended in 1985, Niemeyer decided to return to Brazil: in this period he worked on the Passarela do Samba in Rio de Janeiro (1983-84) and Niteròi’s museum of contemporary art (1991-96).
Esclusive interview with Oscar Niemeyer during the Centenary of Mondadori, June 2007 (Original language with italian subtitles)