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Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer, Canoas House, 1952, Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Leonardo Finotti.

JOSIAH McELHENY

There is no form without politics, just as there is no form without context; one finds the politics in the way form is embedded in its context.

—Martin Beck

SINCE THE END OF THE GERMAN REVOLUTION IN 1923—the failure of which led Walter Gropius and many of the artists and architects of the former Berlin “Art Soviet” to renounce their dreams of an activist leftist aesthetic—it has been commonplace for modernist architects to carefully distance themselves from political identification. Perhaps this deliberate severing of modern architecture from its origins as a visionary imagining of an antiauthoritarian state is what facilitated its subsequent triumph as the international language of corporate and institutional power.

The fact that Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was a lifelong and vocal leftist makes him an unusual figure within the canon of

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