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Oscar Niemeyer’s Last Design Finally Finds a Home in Aix-en-Provence, France

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There’s something about Paris and the South of France—specifically Aix-en-Provence—that tends to attract the world’s most acclaimed creatives. After all, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer admitted that he would only leave his beloved Rio de Janeiro for the City of Lights. Although he never ended up permanently leaving Brazil, Niemeyer did leave behind a collection of sensuous, curved architectural masterpieces throughout France, the place that offered him refuge and space to thrive during the period of cultural lockdown in Brazil in the 1960s.

When the military dictatorship rose to power by way of a coup in 1964, many intellectuals were forced into exile, including Niemeyer. And like many creatives, he landed in France, where he designed some of the country’s most iconic structures, including the Communist Party’s headquarters, the L’Humanité newspaper offices, the Maison de la Culture of Le Havre, the Labor Council Building of Bobigny, and even a private residence on the shores of Saint-Tropez.

Oscar Niemeyer’s pavilion at Château La Coste consists of an exhibition space and auditorium. The classic yet modern building is a classic Niemeyer building with curved architecture and an abundance of glass. 

Photo: Stéphane Aboudaram

While the architect passed away a decade ago, he left a detailed sketch, which took him more than a year to perfect, of a building to be erected in Aix-en-Provence’s Château La Coste. The building, which will open to the public in June, is a pavilion that he designed in tandem with his grandson-in-law, Jair Valera, who heads his own architecture studio dedicated to continuing Niemeyer’s legacy. “I worked with Oscar for over 30 years, participating in his creations, developing and coordinating his projects. Of course, he had a great influence on my architecture and my personal life. He thrilled me with each new project,” Valera notes. The most recent project of the late Brazilian patriarch, one that Valera was particularly involved with, is the Aix-en-Provence pavilion that will join a collection of other works by equally renowned artists and architects, including Frank Gehry, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle, Tracey Emin, and Jean Nouvel.

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