Oscar Niemeyer, the arch-modernist Brazilian architect, died of a respiratory infection on Wednesday, just days shy of his 105th birthday. He had been hospitalized with several minor ailments in the year leading up to his death, but had continued work on numerous projects. The architect was influential in the development of Brazilian modernist architecture in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, which featured graceful, flowing forms in contrast to the more angular style of the time. Niemeyer began practicing architecture in Brazil in the late 1930s and spent most of his life there, except for a period of exile from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, during the country’s rule by military dictatorship.
Although best-known for designing the major residential, commercial, and government buildings in Brazil’s ultramodern capital Brasília, Niemeyer also worked on the United Nations building in collaboration with Le Corbusier and other renowned international architects. He gained a reputation as a maker of monuments for all the memorials and civil projects he completed. Niemeyer won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988.
Despite the fact that he was a dedicated atheist and communist who served as president of the Brazilian Communist Party in the 1990s, Niemeyer also designed many churches throughout his career. Just last year, he released a monograph, As Igrejas (The Churches) (Editora Nosso Caminho), featuring 16 of his church designs, some unrealized, and spoke with A.i.A. about plans for new projects.
Niemeyer is survived by his second wife, Vera Lúcia Cabreira; four grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and six great-great-grandchildren. His first wife, Annita Baldo, to whom he was married for 76 years, passed away in 2004, and their daughter, Anna Maria died earlier this year at age 82.