A vision in concrete: Oscar Niemeyer’s Brazil

As Brasília turns 60, it’s time to reassess the legendary modernist architect on a visit to the Brazilian capital and Rio de Janeiro During a brief visit to Rio de Janeiro, taking in Sugar Loaf mountain, Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, and dutifully drinking cool caipirinhas, my heart was really elsewhere – 1,200km inland to Brasília in the central plateau to be precise. It wasn’t sand, samba and rainforests I was after, but clean modernist lines and reinforced concrete laid out on the Cerrado (the country’s vast tropical savannah). I was first smitten by the great modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, who died eight years ago at the age of 104, when I saw pictures of his Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro, completed in 1996. With its red snaking access walkway and saucer-shaped gallery, it looks like something out of a 1960s sci-fi film. Niemeyer was a sort of Brazilian Le Corbusier (with whom he worked) and the more pictures I saw of his exotic modernism and the more I read about his socialist