“I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire universe, the curved universe of Einstein.” Oscar Niemeyer
Legend has it that Oscar Niemeyer never drew a sharp angle in his entire life. We cannot verify this piece of information; however, we can safely assume that all his work, from remarkable buildings to iconic pieces of furniture, was never about the “hard, inflexible lines created by man”.
Born in Rio in 1907, the young Oscar spent his time between his father’s printing shop and the city’s bars and nightspots, seeking the company of the underdogs. His career started in the practice of Lucio Costa, an influential modernist architect, and took off when the mayor of Belo Horizonte commissioned Niemeyer to design some public buildings for Pamphula.
From then on, his signature buildings popped up all over Brazil, from the suburbs of Rio to entire areas of Sao Paulo and on to Brasilia, arguably Niemeyer’s most iconic accomplishment. The entire city, built on a dry, empty plateau, is a feat of engineering and sensuality, of concrete and light. By showing the infinite aesthetic possibilities of concrete, and a fresh take on rationalism, Niemeyer influenced entire generations of architects.
Alongside his public buildings, Oscar Niemeyer designed countless pieces of furniture, driven by the need to fix “the problem with furniture arrangements”. The great master thought that beautiful modernist and contemporary architecture was often diminished by the presence of inadequate pieces of furniture… Together with his daughter, Anna Maria, he created many iconic designs including the Rio rocking chair, the Marquesa bench and the Alta armchair. Over time, he launched ON, a line of furniture comprising a desk, a sofa and an armchair. Free from the strict rules of functionalism, he injected sensuality and “Brasilidade” into his work finding beauty through asymmetry and curves.
He never stopped drawing his famous curves, not even when he self-exiled to Europe, fleeing Brazil’s military dictatorship. A communist at heart, he even designed the headquarters of the French communist party, leaving his enduring mark in the heart of Paris. When he returned to Brazil, he kept on working and enjoying life’s simple pleasures until his death, in 2012.
“I have never been one to look back and regret mistakes. I am a child of nature, a tiny and insignificant part of her, and in her lies the credit or the blame – partly, at any rate – for both my qualities and my faults. This is the way she made me.”
– Oscar Niemeyer