In the 1940’s, Juscelino Kubitschek invited Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer to design a new planned suburb north of Belo Horizonte called Pampulha. Kubitschek was mayor at the time and Niemeyer was a young modernist architect in his 30’s. This was the start of an important relationship.
The “Pampulha architectural complex” was completed in 1943 and was widely praised by the international design community. It was included in a 1943 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York called “Brazil Builds.”
This was an important exhibition for Brazilian architecture and for modernism in general because it demonstrated that the European principles of modernism were traveling (Brazil was one of the first to adopt), and they were evolving. Brazilian architects, such as Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa, had begun to regionalize it and make it their own.
A Brazilian style of modernism was emerging.
By 1956, Niemeyer had become a key figure in the world of modern architecture. At the same time, Juscelino Kubitschek had just become the 21st president of Brazil. Shortly after assuming the position, he would ask Niemeyer to help build a new capital city for the country. This was the birth of Brasilia. Niemeyer designed the buildings. And Costa planned its streets.
A few years before this, Niemeyer would also return to Belo Horizonte to design the “Niemeyer apartment building” at the Praça da Liberdade in the center of the city (and pictured above). It is quintessentially Niemeyer: curved & feminine. Niemeyer despised right angles. He found them harsh and manmade. Everything that is beautiful in nature — from the mountains of Brazil to the curves of a woman — was, in his view, sinuous.
But the other thing I really appreciate about it is how its “brise soleils” play with your perception of the building. The building is only 10 storeys. But the sun shades, which some of you may read as balconies, make it look much taller (albeit with some minuscule floor-to-floor heights). The reality is that each floor is made up of 3 breaks. And the overall effect is magical (again, see above photo).
Here is a great video tour of the building by Maíra Lemos, which includes a walkthrough of two of the apartments (note the antechamber in the first). This entire post was to get you ready to watch it. Click here if you can’t see it below. (Also, if I made videos, I would want them to be like this one.)
Image: Screen grab from the video