On the subject of Oscar Niemeyer, I've just finished his autobiography The Curves of Time. What a very peculiar book it is. Naturally, one doesn't necessarily expect lapidary literary precision from a man in his 90s, but it's a deeply odd, contradictory thing even so. On one level, this is a manifesto for a gloriously libidinal conception of architecture and life: much of it seems to consist of Niemeyer and pals drinking and arguing about politics and existentialism before romancing girls who 'had the baroque buttocks we all favoured' - something that seems to jar somewhat with his rep as designer of the Apollonian capital of the postwar stabs at the Ville Radieuse, with the Platonic obsessiveness of its central square, an alignment of three ideal forms. The phrase just seems perfect for Niemeyer's aesthetic though: bulging, warm, yet classically symmetrical. Ahem.
Then there's his astoundingly unreconstructed Communism: to read someone in the 00s writing unconcernedly of his admiration for Stalin is, well, bracing, particularly when in the same book he writes of how impressed he was by the East Berlin Stalinallee on a '50s Eastern Bloc junket (apparently Moscow in the 1950s was 'the land of people that loved peace and freedom') - this at a time when Niemeyer was actually working on the West's unashamedly Modernist response to the Stalinist boulevard, the Hansaviertel in the Tiergarten (his block for which has some particularly sublime steatopygous columns, of the sort that Corbusier called 'thighs' rather than Pilotis). Yet we also find him in the book disdaining the building of social housing as a distraction from the revolution, while designing what would inadvertently become one of the emblems of 'Brazilification', the viciously harsh polarisation of rich and poor. But no matter how wildly contradictory it is, what a rich, ambitious conception of art, architecture and life he has: I'd take this 99 year old sculpting concrete anti-yankee monuments for Chavez over all the architecture schools' fashionable mock-Deleuzian wafflers.