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Monday, October 05, 2015

Oscar Niemeyer, The Man Who Built Brasilia Exhibition


We went to the "Oscar Niemeyer, The Man Who Built Brasilia" exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo on Saturday. The exhibition has been running since July 18 and runs until the 12th of this month.

Oscar Niemeyer Exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.
Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo is an appropriately strikingly designed facility for an exhibition about architecture, and the exhibition itself was well attended.

The exhibition began with a "Prologue" in Japanese and English (Portuguese made an appearance at times throughout the exhibition), that gave an overview of the great Brazilian architect, who for political reasons, spent two decades of his life in France.

Colonnades of Alvorada Palace & Cathedral of Brasilia framework
Colonnades of Alvorada Palace and, at back, Cathedral of Brasilia framework

Most of the rest of the exhibition was in the form of scale models, either of buildings designed by Niemeyer, or of details from them.

There was a miniature of the Pampulha Complex, the group of buildings (Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Art Museum, Casa de Baile and Tennis Club) designed by Niemeyer for a new settlement in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, centered around the artificial, Lake Pampulha in the 1940s. There was also the Casa das Canoas, Niemeyer's seductively-shaped house in Rio de Janeiro, and the United Nations headquarters, designed by Niemeyer and Corbusier (but reflecting more of the former's concept than the latter's) and completed in 1952.

Models of Oscar Niemeyer's architectural designs, Museum of Contermporarly Art, Tokyo, Japan.
Models of Oscar Niemeyer's architectural designs
From the Cathedral of Brasilia was a "miniature" (but still very big) reconstruction of the distinctive framework of the Cathedral of Brasilia, made from 16 columns, and of the Colonnades of Alvorada Palace: the colonnades of the modernist residence of the president of Brazil, in Brasilia, designed by Niemeyer and completed in 1958.

A documentary movie in the next room about Niemeyer provided important insights into what drove him, especially his (communist) politics, for which reason he had to leave the Brazil under military dictatorship whose slogan was "Love it or leave it."

The fifth room in the exhibition featured models of the University of Constantine (now called the University Mentouri Constantine) in Algeria that Niemeyer designed with all the faculties occupying the same space. It shared the space the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum model, the museum having been constructed in 1996 in of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, and looking like a flying saucer.

Full room reconstruction of Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Full room reconstruction of Sao Paulo's Ibirapuera Park at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
The second to last exhibit was perhaps the most memorable, being a huge recreation of Ibirapuera Park, a huge urban park in Sao Paulo begun in 1954 with all the buildings designed by Niemeyer. The exhibit was particularly interesting in that the park grounds were represented by a massive custom-made carpet on which was printed a satellite image of the park, with Niemeyer's buildings represented by 3D scale models. The height of the room and the way the natural light illuminated it made for probably the highlight of the exhibition.

The Epilogue finished with an overview of Niemeyer and his works, with drawings and furniture designed by the great man, who passed away only three years ago aged 104.

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