I had just arrived some hours before in Paris. Besides some other buildings, this one was suggested by David the night before when we were still in the office in London. Although prepared for what I was about to see, at the Place du Colonel Fabien subway exit, while eating a steaming crepe with nutella, under April’s rain, once again a Niemeyer building had caused surprise.(1) I guess this is common in much of his buildings (apart from the ubiquitous difficulty to lousily shoot any of his works). It’s like the Woman we love unconditionally, she’s always beautiful and amazing and with time she becomes even more.
Just like with women, it’s wise that one can respond assertively to everything that one proposes. And he did it with a “curvaceous building.”(2) Otherwise would not be possible. The curve in his architecture is as essential as a man having a woman on his side. As the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano said: “He’s been doing a free architecture just like the clouds. Sensual. That is very similar to the mountainous landscape of Rio de Janeiro. These are mountains that look like women’s bodies lying down, designed by God in the day that God thought He was Niemeyer.”(3)
I noticed that the surprise was in the invocation of a Rio de Janeiro precisely in Paris’19th Arrondisement. The desire to have a naked woman, curvy, free from the ceremonial blemish of Parisian haute couture, recalling Melnikov’s words.(4)
The object of desire exceeds the building itself. To realize this, one only needs to look at Niteroi’s Museum. In Oscar Niemeyer’s works, it is always about something more. It is “something light, so Nature is not disturbed (…) the Pão-de-Açucar, and all Nature is underneath the museum (…) around is a magnificent spectacle”.(5) The object of desire is also the landscape.
The same goes for women as advocated by Gilles Deleuze through Marcel Proust’s ideas: “I mean, I do not desire a woman – I am ashamed to say this since Proust already said it, and it’s beautiful in Proust – I do not desire a woman, I also desire a landscape that is enveloped in this woman, a landscape that, if needs be, I don’t know, but I can feel. And as long as I haven’t unfolded the landscape that envelops her, I will not be happy, that is… my desire will remain unsatisfied (…) I never desire anything on its own, I desire much more, I don’t desire an aggregate either. I desire within an aggregate (…) I would say that desire, for me – if I search for an abstract term that matches a desire – has always been about constructivism. To desire is to construct an assemblage”.(6)
Undoubtedly, Brasilia is the work that best reflects this triad “woman-landscape-agency” (tetrad if we include the “unsatisfaction”). Oscar Niemeyer was part of a remarkable generation of intellectuals – poets, musicians, architects, urbanists, filmmakers, directors, among others – that con-substantiated in Brasilia all the desire to transform society into something better. “But when they inaugurated the city, the politicians came in, businessmen came in, it was the same shit: the difference of social classes, the imposition of money, business, everything that nowadays is still around.”(7)
The French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris (1966) emerges as an epilogue to the dissatisfaction and disappointment which ironically started with the inauguration of Brasilia in 1960 and culminated with the 1964 coup d’étad, leading him into exile and finally moving to Paris in 1965.
To think and to desire led him into doing. Thinking about the status quo, desiring to change it and doing the necessary to do so. That’s what he’s been doing for over a century now. An inspiration to all those who truly aspire in doing something worthy.
(1) “When I’m asked to design a public building, I try to do it in a beautiful way, different, that causes surprise (…) to have a moment of pleasure, of surprise, to see something new.” Oscar Niemeyer in A Vida é um Sopro (2010)
(4) “Being able to do whatever I want, I begged her (architecture) to strip down her marble dress, to remove the makeup and to show herself: undressed like a graceful and young goddess.” Konstantin Melnikov