Paddle8: Where does the inspiration for your drawings come from?
Oscar Niemeyer: When I was a little boy, I liked to draw. I remember when I was around 10 years old I would always be like this with my fingers in the air, drawing pictures in space. I would draw and draw, and nothing else mattered. Drawing has always provoked me. Drawing carried me to architecture.
P8: Did your family support your love of drawing?
ON: Oh yes, they could only agree. It was all very personal. My father was a merchant at a company that produced paper and he believed that I should pursue his business, but I had this desire to draw, to take photographs, this will to create –So I ended up with architecture.
I also like to write.
P8: What do you like to write? Books?
ON: I like to write about architecture, philosophy, literature and so on. I like to write for my magazine [Nosso Caminho]. I also wrote a book. The magazine obligates us to consider and speculate about the problems with architecture.
There are ten editions and the idea is to bring forth to students of architecture other ideas and topics outside of the discipline, including politics. We produce the entire magazine in the studio ourselves. We select the texts, we organize the layout and the design, we select the honoree, tell his story – through the magazine we show how architecture is progressing in time, and what architecture is now. Everything we do now is speculating about reinforced concrete. In the past architecture was created with fewer possibilities and less invention. Today, architecture is invention. In harmony with the structure you can speculate with the sculpture.
Brazilian architecture is based on reinforced concrete. It permits all fantasies to take shape.
We work to instigate reinforced concrete, helping it to evolve, too. In the past a house was just bricks on the floor – now a house can be suspended, crafted in a more unique manner, more different. I recently made a house in the United States – it surprised people but it was all very rational, correct – you can use the reinforced concrete in an intelligent manner. Architecture today is invention. It isn’t enough to just be rational; it also must be beautiful. It must show that it is based in an architecture that is rich in solutions.
P8: What are the problems with architecture today?
ON: The problem is to figure out how to utilize reinforced concrete in all the possible ways. You can make a house on top of four columns, you make a house on top of one column, and so on – this shows all the possibilities reinforced concrete opens. For architecture to be good, it needs to express well the material of reinforced concrete. If not, it’s behind the times.
P8: Your architecture gives the sensation of being on a different planet, or an alternate reality.
ON: [Laughs] Yes. It depends on the case. Sometimes my projects vary around one repeating fundamental element or theme that adds great stature or beauty to the building. It’s good. Doing architecture this way is good, you know, looking for that thing that is different.
Now I am working on a stadium. I am thinking about the stadium. It’s a pre-fabricated stadium. No, it isn’t pre-fabricated, it’s base material is concrete, the dome. It’s a giant dome – 250 meters or so. So these different works like this are intelligently designed, you know? That’s what makes me want to do architecture.
P8: Did you have a nice Easter?
ON: I was working. Working regularly. Sometimes we travel to other states near Rio for the holidays. But I have travelled far, too. I went all the way to Moscow, and other places, too, in the Unites States and so on. I stayed for one month in the United States, working regularly on the United Nations building. Afterwards I came back to Rio. Then I worked in France for a few months. I went to Germany, I went to Moscow, I went to Africa. I have an idea of the world already. I have a very clear idea of the world, which is after all characterized by the fight of the poor versus the rich. The poor are very angry about the social injustice, and the rich want to maintain the evolution of money and power. I am on the side of the poor.
Architecture is related to a way of thought. Architecture is a fantasy. Architecture isn’t a business. It isn’t just technical – it isn’t just raising 100-meter buildings. Architecture is making a beautiful building. The most essential thing that does not exist [in Moscow] is the idea to make the world into your home, your garden, your school. Architecture can provide the good environment that we want. And it does not exist yet in some places. Even in Brazil itself, access is difficult, food is difficult, and so on. Not only for Brazilians, look at the Egyptians now, too. This level of poverty creates deeper problems.
P8: How did you work with Le Corbusier?
ON: I did the UN project. They chose my design, and then there was all this confusion and Le Corbusier called me and asked me to adjust aspects of it and collaborate with him on part of the design. He was the master, so I agreed to collaborate with him in the initial project. The Americans celebrated my original project, but what you see now is an altered version.
P8: Would you talk about Brasília?
ON: Brasília has good things and bad things. There are many beautiful buildings. It’s a city of poor and rich people together. There are zones with better conditions for people with more means, and there are poorer zones, too. Brasília has its flaws and issues like any city. But it will be a pleasant city.
A city depends on the environment. Brasília’s buildings are not beautiful in the way Rio de Janeiro’s are beautiful, with the natural beauty of Rio de Janeiro. An architect would have to be very bad to spoil Rio with its beaches, its mountains. Only very ignorant people disturb the natural beauty of the city.
In celebration of Oscar Niemeyer’s influence on both the physical and artistic landscape of Brazil, In The Gallery | Brasil, draws from the vibrant panorama of contemporary art across Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre and Brasília, and features architecturally inspired artwork by native Brazilian artists. Paddle8's In the Gallery projects regularly highlights a selection of artwork drawn primarily from partner galleries' current exhibitions.
In The Gallery | Brasil features work by:
Rochelle Costi, João Luiz Musa, Caio Reisewitz, Eduardo Coimbra, CãoGuimaraes, Lucia Koch, Bruno Cals, Murillo Meirelles, Carla Chaim, Iole de Freitas, and Servulo Esmeraldo.
Osklen founder and creative director Oskar Metsavaht's photography series Ipanema features black and white shots of landscapes and human portraits from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"In the attempt to freeze the elements of style that permeates every collection I design for Osklen, I constantly photograph things that surround my aesthetics beliefs. These images must be beautiful portraits of what I wish to create, what I wish to transmit through fashion and design. They are the result and also the source of my inspiration. This series of my photographs from Ipanema are the opportunity to share the moment before they become decodified to design, to fashion, they're my moment of pure art." - Oskar Metsavaht, Creative Director of Osklen