Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) was born in the hillside district of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts there. Niemeyer’s architecture, conceived as lyrical sculpture, expands on the principles and innovations of Le Corbusier to become a kind of free-form sculpture.

In 1938-39 he designed the Brazilian Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair in collaboration with Lucio Costa. His celebrated career began to blossom with his involvement with the Ministry of Education and Health (1945) in Rio de Janeiro. Niemeyer’s mentor, Lucio Costa, architect, urban planner, and renowned pioneer of Modern architecture in Brazil, led a group of young architects who collaborated with Le Corbusier to design the building which became a landmark of modern Brazilian architecture. It was while Niemeyer was working on this project that he met the mayor of Brazil's wealthiest state, Juscelino Kubitschek, who would later become President of Brazil. As President, he appointed Niemeyer in 1956 to be the chief architect of Brasilia, the new capital of Brazil, his designs complementing Lucio Costa’s overall plans. The designs for many buildings in Brasilia would occupy much of his time for many years.

"As an architect," he states, "my concern in Brasilia was to find a structural solution that would characterize the city's architecture. So I did my very best in the structures, trying to make them different with their columns narrow, so narrow that the palaces would seem to barely touch the ground. And I set them apart from the facades, creating an empty space through which, as I bent over my work table, I could see myself walking, imagining their forms and the different resulting points of view they would provoke.

Internationally, he collaborated with Le Corbusier again on the design for the United Nations Headquarters (1947-53) in New York, contributing significantly to the siting and final design of the buildings. His own residence (1953) in Rio de Janeiro has become a landmark. In the 1950s, he designed an Aeronautical Research Center near Sao Paulo. In Europe, he undertook an office building for Renault and the Communist Party Headquarters (1965) both in Paris, a cultural centre for Le Havre (1972), and in Italy, the Mondadori Editorial Office (1968) in Milan and the FATA Office Building (1979) in Turin. In Algiers, he designed the Zoological Gardens, the University of Constantine, and the Foreign Office.

"I have always," says Niemeyer, "accepted and respected all other schools of architecture, from the chill and elemental structures of Mies van der Rohe to the imagination and delirium of Gaudi. I must design what pleases me in a way that is naturally linked to my roots and the country of my origin.” Niemeyer continues:

When I started to design the Museum of Modern Art for Niteroi, I already had an idea in mind. An abstract circular form above the landscape, and the site free of other constructions to better emphasize the building. I did not want to repeat the usual solutions of a cylinder above another, but to move in the direction of the design for the Caracas Museum (a design by Niemeyer from 1954), creating a line that would rise with curves and straight lines from the ground up to the roof. The exhibition hall would be surrounded by straight walls—I did not want it glazed—but with exits for the external gallery that would encircle it, integrating it in the magnificent panorama.

As often happens, this solution calling for a central support sustaining only the exhibition room was modified. With the addition of one meter in height on the radial beams, measuring one meter and a half, we would add a new floor, including the 'foyer,' the reception room, the auditorium, work rooms, library and bathrooms. This would result in a more complete and economical project.

My architecture followed the old examples -beauty prevailing over the limitations of the constructive logic. My work proceeded, indifferent to the unavoidable criticism set forth by those who take the trouble to examine the minimum details, so very true of what mediocrity is capable of. It was enough to think of Le Corbusier saying to me once while standing on the ramp of the Congress: `There is invention here'.

Although semi-retired, he still works at the drawing board and welcomes young architects from all over the world. He hopes to instill in them the sensitivity to aesthetics that allowed him to strive for beauty in the manipulation of architectural forms.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize Celebrates its Tenth Anniversary Honoring Two Laureates for 1988

Two architects, Gordon Bunshaft and Oscar Niemeyer, from North and South America respectively, whose works have been among the most influential and recognized in this century have been named Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureates of 1988. The awards will be presented on Monday, May 23, at a ceremony at The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois.

Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, which established the prize in 1979, commented, "We are delighted that the jury has used the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the prize to honor, not one, but two masters of modern architecture."

Niemeyer, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and will be 81 this year, is perhaps best known for designing most of the buildings in Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil. He began his career in 1936, achieving his first taste of international acclaim in a collaboration with Le Corbusier on the building for the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro. It attracted worldwide attention at the time as one of the first buildings to express the emerging concepts of the modern architectural movement. In thr late forties, the two again worked together on the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. He is the sixth architect from outside the United States to receive the prize.

Bunshaft, who celebrates his seventy-ninth birthday this year lives in New York City. He has designed many buildings there, one of which, Lever House, has been declared an historic landmark, and which Bunshaft calls "my first real building." The sixty-story Chase Manhattan Bank, the Union Carbide Building, and the original PepsiCo building are all Bunshaft additions to the New York skyline. In Washington, D.C., the Hirshhorn Museum has become a familiar addition to the cultural landscape. In his hometown of Buffalo, New York, he designed another art museum, the addition to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, described by another Pritzker Laureate as "the most beautiful museum in the world." In Texas, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, and at Yale, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, add to 'the distinction of their designer, whose career at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, New York spanned over four decades. His last building for that firm before retiring was one he calls "one of my best and most unique projects," the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The Purpose of the prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

The prize consists of a $100,000 grant, a formal citation certificate, and a medallion. When the Pritzker family established the prize, they wanted to honor a creative endeavor not included in the Nobel Prizes. They modeled their procedures and rewards after the latter. As with the Nobels, the two Pritzker Laureates chosen by the jury in 1988 will share the prize equally.

The nominating procedure is continuous from year to year, with the final selection being made by an international jury with all deliberation, procedures, and voting in secret.

The jury for the 1988 Pritzker Architecture Prize consisted of J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., who has served as juror since its founding, and is the chairman. The other citizens of the United States on the panel are Ada Louise Huxtable, author and architectural critic; and the architect Kevin Roche of Hamden, Connecticut, who received the Pritzker Prize in 1982. Serving as jurors from other countries are Jacob Rothschild, chairman of the board of trustees of the National Gallery of Art in London, England; architects Ricardo Legorretaof Mexico City and Fumihiko Maki of Tokyo, Japan; and from Torino, Italy, Giovanni Agnelli, chairman of Fiat.

Bill Lacy, secretary to the jury and former president of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, announced the selection with a citation from the jury that reads as follows:

"As we approach a decade of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, it seems appropriate to celebrate that milepost by honoring two masters of modern architecture to whom the profession owes so much. The sharing of the prize is unprecedented, but entirely warranted as a tribute to architects from North and South America whose work has had worldwide influence in this century, and doubtless will continue into the future."


The citation continues, "The distinguished careers of Oscar Niemeyer and Gordon Bunshaft parallel the story of twentieth-century architecture. Each using a different palette, following sometimes the same and sometimes different mentors, shaping their visions of the built environment in different hemispheres, they have brought new dimension to the art that the Pritzker Prize celebrates. The flowing curve and precise geometry characterize their respective design approaches.

"Niemeyer's buildings are the distillation of the colors and light and sensual imagery of his native Brazil. His is an architecture of artistic gesture with underlying logic and substance.”

"Bunshaft has created a rich inventory of projects that set a timeless standard for buildings in the urban/corporate world. In a career that has spanned forty years of accomplishment, he has demonstrated an understanding of contemporary technology and materials in the making of great architecture that is unsurpassed.”

"Both men represent the philosophy of modernism that has given form to the singular resources of the twentieth century. A great debt is owed to these two men by their fellow architects as well as 'the public they serve. In awarding this prize for lifetimes of achievement, we," concludes the jury citation, "gratefully acknowledge that debt."

The first Pritzker Architecture Prize went to Philip Johnson in 1979. Kevin Roche, leoh Ming Pei, and Richard Meier complete the list of prior U.S. winners. Last year, Kenzo Tange of Japan received the prize, joining the list of international architects, Gottfried Böhm of the Federal Republic of Germany, Hans Hollein of Austria, James Stirling of Great Britain, and Luis Barragán of Mexico.

Bill Lacy, secretary to the jury, added, "With the addition of the names Bunshaft and Niemeyer to this list, the Pritzker Prize confirms that these two illustrious architects will have a place in the story something their outstanding buildings have already assured." 


Read Ada Louise Huxtable's Essay

There is a moment in a nation's history when one individual captures the essence of that culture and gives it form. It is sometimes in music, painting, sculpture, or literature. In Brazil, Oscar Niemeyer has captured that essence with his architecture. His building designs are the distillation of colors, light and sensual imagery of his native land.

Although associated primarily with his major masterpiece, Brasilia, the capital city of Brazil, he had achieved early recognition from one of his mentors, Le Corbusier, going on to collaborate with him on one of the most important symbolic structures in the world, the United Nations Headquarters.

Recognized as one of the first to pioneer new concepts in architecture in this hemisphere, his designs are artistic gesture with underlying logic and substance. His pursuit of great architecture linked to roots of his native land has resulted in new plastic forms and a lyricism in buildings, not only in Brazil, but around the world. For his lifetime achievements, the Pritzker Architecture Prize is bestowed.

Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Giovanni Agnelli
Ada Louise Huxtable
Ricardo Legorreta
Fumihiko Maki
Kevin Roche
Jacob Rothschild
Bill Lacy (Secretary to the Jury)
Stuart Wrede (Acting Consultant to the Jury)

The Art Institute, Chicago, Illinois

The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 as both a museum and school, opened on its present site in the heart of Chicago in 1893. Throughout its history, it has grown extensively in response to the additions to its world-renowned collections and expanding programs. The original building, designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge forms the main entrance on Michigan Avenue. However, other architects and firms such as Howard Van Doren Shaw, Skidmore Owing & Merrill, Tom Beeby, C.F. Murphy Associates, Dan Kiley, Renzo Piano, and others have made significant contributions this institution.

When the Chicago Stock Exchange (1893–94) was demolished in 1972, one of city’s most important landmarks designed by Louis Sullivan with his partner, Dankmar Adler, there was strong public outcry. Sections of Sullivan's elaborate stenciled decorations, molded plaster capitals, and art glass were preserved from the Trading Room, the magnificent centerpiece of the original 13-story structure. Using these fragments, the Art Institute was able to reconstruct the Trading Room in its new wing in 1976–77. The arch from the main entrance of the Stock Exchange Building was also preserved and graces the Art Institute’s campus in homage to the original landmark.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremonies from both 1982 and 1988 took place at the Art Institute of Chicago. The 1982 ceremony consisted of an open-air reception and ceremony and dinner in the Stock Exchange trading Room. The 1998 presentation was officially made at a luncheon within the museum.


Read Oscar Niemeyer's Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Read Jay Pritzker's Ceremony Speech


art institute

Ceremony Highlights

Full Ceremony