Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil’s great modern architect, had little time for the Bauhaus. Or did he?
Two star architects meet. One shows the other one his house, and the other one says, “Yes, yes, it’s very nice, but...”
No joke. When Walter Gropius, founder of the world-famous Bauhaus, took a look around the house of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1953, he really did find something to moan about.
“But it can’t go into series production,“ carped the German.
The Brazilian nearly hit the roof at that. Because the Casa das Canoas in São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro, completed in 1951 and fitting snugly with its many curves into the unevenness of the ground, naturally had to be a bespoke production!
The Brazilian was in any case no friend of series production. He had just built the UN headquarters in New York with Le Corbusier and would soon be designing the government buildings for the capital, Brasília, and derogatively called the Bauhaus, which produced prototypes for the masses with exactly series production in mind, a “paradise for mediocrity”. Everything, according to him, repeated itself and monotonously looked the same. “If you worry about the function,“ said Niemeyer, "the result will suck.”
Gropius and Niemeyer were very different.
While the one liked to ground the concrete in practical cubes ...
... it seduced the other to flights of fancy with his filigree buildings.
While the one loved clear lines and strict geometric forms ...
... the other was attracted by “the soft and sensuous curves of the mountains of my country, the winding curves of our rivers, the clouds in the sky and the beautiful female body”.
... “Form follows feminine”, preached the other.
But all the same, these two uncrowned kings of architecture ...
... had a lot in common too.
The abstract forms in the Brazilian’s architecture are pretty bauhauslike too.
And of course – they were both ...
... revolutionaries in construction!
Four years after their meeting in Rio, Niemeyer and Gropius were to come closer, architecturally speaking, in Berlin. For the International Building Exhibition in 1957 they both built houses, alongside other architects like Arne Jacobsen, Max Taut and Egon Eiermann. Their houses are just a few steps away from each other.
Well, who built what?
Gropius or Niemeyer?
Niemeyer or Gropius?
Text / Concept / Realisation: Cornelia Jeske
Editing: Astrid Alexander, Cornelia Jeske
Translation: Catherine Hales, Stephan Schmidt
© Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau