LATIN AMERICA

Brazil celebrates its late, great architect

Niemeyer, who died at 104, receives state honors in the city he designed

Niemeyer in his Copacabana studio in Rio in 2008
Niemeyer in his Copacabana studio in Rio in 2008GORKA LEJARCEGI

Surrounded by Oscar Niemeyer's iconic buildings, mourners filled the center of Brasilia last Thursday to honor the internationally renowned architect as he lay in state at the presidential palace in the Brazilian capital.

Niemeyer's remains had been flown by presidential plane to the capital from his native city, Rio de Janeiro, where he had died the day before at the age of 104.

As an open-topped fire truck passed through Brasilia with his coffin, passers-by stopped what they were doing and applauded.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called him "a revolutionary, the mentor of a new architecture that is beautiful, logical, and, as he himself defined it, inventive."

After Thursday's vigil and public visitation, his remains were returned Friday for burial in Rio, where the governor, Sergio Cabral, called for three days of mourning.

A woman mourns the late Oscar Niemeyer during his funeral
A woman mourns the late Oscar Niemeyer during his funeralRICARDO MORAES (REUTERS)

Sergio Magalhães, president of the Brazilian Institute of Architects, said: "Beyond being an architect, Niemeyer was a man ahead of his time, who stood in solidarity with the people and who was loved as few have been."

Born into an elite family, Niemeyer was a lifelong communist who took a stand against social inequality. Starting in the 1930s, Niemeyer's career spanned nine decades. His distinctive glass and white-concrete buildings include landmarks such as the UN Secretariat in New York, the Communist Party headquarters in Paris, and the Roman Catholic Cathedral as part of his Brasilia complex.

Norman Foster described Niemeyer as one of his heroes, whom he was finally able to meet last year, saying: "Few architects in recent history have been able to summon such a vibrant vocabulary and structure it into such a brilliantly communicative and seductive tectonic language."

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