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At 97, Oscar Niemeyer Completes Concert Hall in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Images: Courtesy Kenneth E. Kruckemeyer and Barbara Knecht

When Oscar Niemeyer was a mere 47 years old, he and fellow Brazilian, landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, collaborated on the design of Ibirapeura Park to commemorate the city of Sao Paolo’s 400th anniversary. Today, the city is 450 years old, and Niemeyer, at 97, has completed the final building in the park, an 840 seat concert hall. Best described as a white wedge with an undulating red tongue, the decision to build it created a legal and public battle between environmentalists and cultural advocates, including Niemeyer, not for the form, but for the trees, it would take.

Niemeyer lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, in sight of Copacabana beach. He shows up for work every day by 10 AM in his miniscule, book-filled studio where he continues to turn out work. The Curitiba (Brazil) Museum was completed in 2002 during the governorship of (architect) Jaime Lerner (now president of the International Union of Architects) and the Contemporary Art Museum, hovering like a 50’s spacecraft on a cliff in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, was completed in 1996.

In a recent interview, Niemeyer, talked of another of his latest projects, a novel titled, “And Now?” which has just been published in Brazil. It is the story of Lucas, his alter-ego, an old communist fighter who has chosen not to become resigned to the brutalities of life. Perhaps his quotation on the concert hall construction sign over a sketch of the new building, conveys both his impatience and his satisfaction, “ After so many years, the Audiorium will be built and the entrance to Ibirapuera, finally, finished, as it should have been.”

Barbara Knecht