17 Dec 2012
7 Dec 2012
…I created it with courage and idealism, but also with an awareness of what is important: life, friends and attempting to make this unjust world a better place in which to live.” — Oscar Niemeyer
My father, some years ago, took a group of fellow academics to Brazil. He does that from time-to-time, both to encourage international collaboration in the Academy, and also to have an excuse to visit his home country. As I’ve gotten older, he’s become more of a Monsieur Hulot figure in my mind — landing in unexpected situations that even he seems at a loss to fully explain.
On one of these trips to Brazil, and in this vein, my father found himself taking his group to Oscar Niemeyer’s studio. When I ask my father to explain how this happened, the conversation usually devolves into an enigmatic explanation of people who know people and friends who know friends and then a general shrug in a particularly Brazilian way that says, “These things happen, you know?”
But from that enigmatic studio visit, my father returned with a book for me, about Oscar, signed by the famous architect. Of course, Oscar misheard my name (or maybe my father was mumbling), so the book says “To Vannene, Oscar Niemeyer.” You win some, you lose some.
Even when Niemeyer’s designs were less successful, they were interesting. And his overall body of work and approach to living have been a long-standing source of inspiration for me, and I know many, many others. He was a brave architect and a brilliant man — I’m extraordinarily sorry to see him go.