The Olympics opening ceremony reminded us that Brazil is home to Amazonian rain forests, rubber plantations, Carnival, and more dance trends than we can count. Any architecture fan watching closely could also have spotted a reference to one of the country’s more cerebral resources, visible in a trail of lights just as Gisele swished offstage: the sketches of architect Oscar Niemeyer. Abandoning the man-made right angles and the ruler-straight lines of his mentor, Le Corbusier, Niemeyer used reinforced concrete to create sweeping, curvilinear shapes and free-form roofs evoking his country’s dramatic mountains and sinuous rivers, as well as the sensuality of its beautiful women.
The results are among the most futuristic structures of the twentieth century, including Paris’s Communist Party headquarters and, on a hillside outside of Rio, the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum—newly renovated thanks in part to a donation from Louis Vuitton and, this past May, the site of Nicolas Ghesquière’s resort 2017 show.
Long before fashion critics started using the word catwalk to describe the runway, it was how theater people referred to the elevated platforms from which lights are hung. Later, architects adopted it to describe the dramatic ramps featured on their buildings. English set designer Es Devlin, who has staged Ghesquière’s Vuitton shows since spring 2015, showcased the iconic catwalk that winds around Niemeyer’s museum to create, she said, an “observatory to the future.”
Extract from an article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of ELLE.
Photo by Rodrigo_Soldon