On December 15, Oscar Niemeyer turned 102 years old. Having recently recovered from gall bladder surgery, he is back at his office in Rio de Janeiro reading, drawing, and teaching. Through the years he has retained his engagement with architecture, and with architectural education in particular, advocating against the idea of architectural specialization and for a humanistic vision of architecture informed by engagement with art, literature, and philosophy. "Here, then, is what I wanted to tell you of my architecture. I created it with courage and idealism, but also with an awareness of the fact that what is important is life, friends and attempting to make this unjust world a better place in which to live." His courage in non-architectural terms cannot be doubted. At considerable personal risk he vigorously opposed the Brazilian military government of the 60’s and was forced to leave the country for 20 years.
Although his work was sometimes derided during the post-modern period, in the past few years there has been a renewed interest in his buildings (at least a dozen books in the past five years), along with those of other free-form modernists like Eero Saarinen, who combine clarity and rigor of vision, hopefulness of outlook and boldness of form. His most honored recent work, completed in 2002 at the age of 95, is the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, “a strange, beautiful, powerful, lyrical composition (Great Buildings Online).” Let’s end with another great quote: “Architecture was my way of expressing my ideals: to be simple, to create a world equal to everyone, to look at people with optimism, that everyone has a gift. I don’t want anything but general happiness. Why is that bad?”
A fascinating interview from 2006 can be seen on Metropolis Magazine’s website.