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Curves of Time: The Memoirs of Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Neimeyer, Izabel Murat Burbridge (Translator)

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ISBN 10: 0714840076 / ISBN 13: 9780714840079
Published by Phaidon Press, 2000
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Curves of Time: The Memoirs of Oscar ...

Publisher: Phaidon Press

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:New

About this title


Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, born in 1907, is one of the architectural masters of the twentieth century and a pioneer of modernism. Known primarily for his collaboration with Le Corbusier and his projects for Pampulha and the visionary Brazilian capital, Brasilia, Niemeyer has designed hundreds of remarkable buildings and master plans during his six-decade career. His experimentation with reinforced concrete produced curved, organic forms that marked an innovative departure from the rectilinear austerity of European modernism. Niemeyer was named an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects in 1963, and he was awarded the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 1988 and the RIBA Gold Medal in 1998 in honor of his outstanding contributions to architecture.
In this autobiography, Niemeyer reveals that philosophy, politics, and his many passions - including his large family, many friends, the sensuous land and open skies of Brazil, the female body, art and literature - have formed the key to his architecture and to his vibrant life. This volume includes notes identifying the people and places cited in the narrative, a chronology of Niemeyer's career, a selection of archival photographs, and forty sketches created by Niemeyer especially for this book.


Some people live to work while others work to live, and based on this charmingly relaxed and meandering memoir, it would seem that Oscar Niemeyer definitely falls in the latter category. Not to say that he doesn't spend considerable time here musing on his crowning achievement, Brasilia. It's just that he does so the same way that he recounts everything else here, dispensing with details and strict linearity (much like in his built work), shifting casually between different points in time (including the very days he is working on what became this book), and focusing on the human relationships and friendships behind a project (such as with Lucia Costa, his mentor and the so-called "father of Brazilian modernism," as well as Le Corbusier) than their technical, administrative, and budgetary minutiae.

Niemeyer designed the vast majority of the municipal buildings for Brasilia, the city built "overnight" in the 1960s out of the desolate interior of his native Brazil to serve as the country's new capital, and the sensuously curvy modernism of its skyline has effectively become his stylistic signature, even if he didn't anticipate the vast and ugly exurban sprawl that has since come to ring the city's dazzling axial core.

So much more than a professional memoir, this is really the unhurried, and endearingly nostalgic, reminiscences of a passionate man motivated not so much by professional or financial gain (in fact, he claims, he worked for years on Brasilia at the base rate of an average civil servant) as by a profound, even melancholic, love for his beautiful and troubled country; the ongoing struggle for relief from political and economic oppression around the world; and, above all, a vast web of lifelong friendships. To wit, there are far more photos here of Niemeyer with his Brazilian cronies (many long dead, he laments openly) than there are of his projects (one reason why those not already somewhat familiar with his output may want to start elsewhere), and far more recounted about their prank-filled road trips between Rio and Brasilia than about the work that actually went on there. Those tales, and all of Niemeyer's anecdotes and gentle, quirky musings here, possess a kind of melancholic glow, evocative of samba, wine, and the "uninhibited" women of his homeland.

He reminisces lyrically about Paris, Italy, and Algiers, where he lived and designed projects for much of the period during which Brazil was under a repressive dictatorship. But even amid his delight in world travel, his homesickness is apparent. "I want to watch the stars / I want to feel life / And be back in Brazil / That's where I want to live," goes a characteristically openhearted poem he wrote in those years of near-forced exile. It is the land and the people of his beloved Brazil, much more so than any or all of what he designed there or elsewhere, that make up the soul of this unconventional and thoroughly lovely memoir from one of the 20th century's most talented, and passionate, architects. --Timothy Murphy

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