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Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer, Copan Building, 1966, São Paulo. Photo: Leonardo Finotti.

PAULO MENDES DA ROCHA

IN SOME WAYS it’s difficult for me to speak about Oscar Niemeyer, because we were so close. But it is also difficult to discuss his work because Oscar fundamentally changed what it meant to be an architect. He gave our field new prestige, elevating its role both for my generation and within world culture, transforming international modernism itself—an achievement that goes back to his involvement with the Ministry of Education and Health headquarters in Rio de Janeiro in the late 1930s and early ’40s. Brazilian architect Lúcio Costa had been appointed to design the building, and he invited Le Corbusier to act as a consultant; Oscar was originally to assist Le Corbusier, but he eventually made many important changes to the design—for example reinventing Le Corbusier’s famous brise-soleil facade elements by transforming them into adjustable shading

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