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Oscar Niemeyer: architecture, city

Editorial. Oscar Niemeyer: architecture, city
The issue number 25 of FAmagazine is dedicated to Oscar Niemeyer, the Brazilian architect who died last year at the age of one-hundred-and-five years old. Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1905 and has represented, perhaps more than anyone else, the emblem of Brazil in the world going, in terms of years, through a succession of eras and historical moments.
Niemeyer has not always been fully understood in Europe: changing criticism fortunes accompanied his story and his architecture has been looked at, with great approximation, on one side looking at the shapes, as if limited to a praise of the curves and winding, on the other things, as a mere “bloom” or, in the worst case, localist “perversion” of corbusierian dictations.
Awarded in 1988 with the prestigious award by The Hyatt Foundation, the Pritzker Prize, Niemeyer, through an abundant production of projects and works that covered three-quarters of the length of a century, helped defining an actual way of approaching the issue of construction of cities and, in concrete terms, of the space immediately next to the architecture itself, that is the landscape of which it becomes part of, by building it.
The issue merges heterogeneous looks in an attempt to build an original mosaic on his personality, with the ambition to return suggestions and readings related to him on the one hand and the relationship that his architecture establishes with the city, even before considering the merits of the forms that substantiate on the other hand.
The article by Guilherme Wisnik in this sense, introduces us to the relationship of Niemeyer with Brazil. His look “from the inside” is really useful to understand the controversial carioca architect. Related to the power and the people, national icon and reference for the “image” architecture even in Europe, Niemeyer is no doubt the architect who in the history of the Brazilian has crossed the national borders the most. Through the words of Wishnik we can follow the path of Niemeyer, his history as an architect and as a man, because the two sides are absolutely inseparable in his case: politics and civic engagement in fact, with Niemeyer become all one with his experience as a designer and Brazilian manufacturer of the new architectural identity.
The reading of Giacomo Kihlgren, analyses some specific ways that Niemeyer adopted in several of his projects, from the house das Canoas in São Conrado near Rio de Janeiro, to the Theatre for the big Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo, from the Museum of Caracas to the one of Niteroi.
The article by Martina Landsberger, concerning the most important planning moment that is the construction of Brasilia, deals with the issue of the construction of the public space of the city through architecture. On an almost completely flat space, as it happens for example in Pisa in Campo dei Miracoli, a series of volumes, with well recognizable shapes, are placed directly on the ground. The way they get in touch with the ground and the relationship they establish among themselves, makes the construction of the space around recognisable and this space, in its “abstraction”, takes his own clear and almost primitive connotation.
Roberto Dulio and Marzia Marandola carefully analyse two different projects, both realised ​​by Niemeyer in Italy, highlighting the ability of the Brazilian to decline his research in areas ??
Dulio, illustrating the history of the project in Segrate, near Milan, wanted by Giorgio Mondadori, and that is one of the most beautiful projects by Niemeyer, goes beyond the building itself, referring to the formal genesis that, in fact, brought overseas a formalism which is anything but rhetorical and naive.
Marzia Marandola, instead, faces a less known project: the headquarters of FATA in Pianezza, near Turin. The building could be considered as some kind of unusual static exercise, able to to show the possibility of architecture to be, as Niemeyer himself liked to repeat, “varied, different, unpredictable.” In this Italian case, Riccardo Morandi is the “technical director” of the operation, working with structural calculations of the building he made possible what Niemeyer imagined. In this specific case it is interesting to notice that the reinforced concrete - used as always by the Brazilian master as a plastic and malleable ingredient - brings the architecture to be a demonstration of the technique as a collective possibility of building.
Finally my intervention tries to introduce another element, more specific and somehow in some inter-scalar reading: that of the construction of the facade conceived as an element of mediation between the private space of the building and the public one of the city. Also in this case, through several projects realised in contexts that are quite different and thus subject to problems with different complexity every time, I highlighted how the construction of the facade with Niemeyer becomes reason of construction of “scenes” within the city. The project for the Copan in Sao Paulo is in this sense the most emblematic case: the building, visible from every point, with its sinuosity and the alternation of solids and voids on the facade, builds a space and even more a background to the design of that part of the city.

Carlo Gandolfi

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