United Nations officials today mourned the death of Oscar Niemeyer, a world-renowned Brazilian architect who was also a key figure in the design and building of the world body’s headquarters in New York.
“I was saddened to learn of the death of Oscar Niemeyer, a towering figure and one of the original architects of United Nations Headquarters,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement.
Mr. Niemeyer died on Wednesday at the age of 104. He was responsible for many iconic structures throughout the world, and was the last surviving member of the team of architects that designed the UN Headquarters complex 65 years ago.
The Secretary-General lauded Mr. Niemeyer’s career as “exceptionally long and illustrious,” while also noting that it was more than just his stamina and talent that made him an outstanding architect.
“He imbued his work with a powerful sense of humanism and global engagement,” the UN chief continued. “I recall my sense of wonder when visiting some of his modernist masterworks in Brasilia, which have been recognized on the UNESCO World Heritage List.”
Mr. Ban’s comments were echoed by the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, who saluted the architect for his commitment to “the concerns of the city and an advocate of humanity.”
“Oscar Niemeyer helped define the 20th century and lay the foundations for the 21st – for all this, he deserves the title of universal artist. As a founder of modern architecture, he gave the cities he loved iconic buildings, hundreds of monuments, recognizable among all, in Paris, Sao Paulo, Rio and, of course, Brasilia,” Ms. Bokova said.
“Oscar Niemeyer used to say that he did not care for tributes and he remained active until the very end,” she added. “He was passionate about work and convinced that architecture, before becoming fine arts, had to contribute concretely to living better together in the city and must embody the values of inclusion, solidarity and cooperation.”
In a 2009 interview with UN Radio, Mr. Niemeyer had said, “Let me tell you frankly: I believe that life is more important than architecture. What really counts is to build a better world. I think that architecture is only a profession. We need to be interested in other things (beyond that).”
The two UN officials made particular mention of the architect’s contribution to the world body’s headquarters complex.
“His work in designing United Nations Headquarters stands as his legacy to the world,” said Mr. Ban. “As United Nations staff in New York move back to our newly renovated complex from temporary quarters, we marvel anew at his vision in creating a beautiful and inspiring home from which to carry out our work of service for all humankind.”
Both Mr. Ban and Ms. Bokova also expressed their sincere condolences to Mr. Niemeyer’s family, and the people and Government of Brazil.