December 6, 2012

The atheist, building churches, said he "avoided conventional solutions, which had produced the old dark cathedrals reminding us of sin."

Oscar Niemeyer. Dead, now, at 104. He was also a communist. (Fidel Castro was a personal friend.) He won the International Lenin Peace Prize in 1963, which he accepted in Moscow, saying:
“On the politics, I’m with you.... But your architecture is awful. Look, I didn’t come here to criticize, but you asked. It’s terrible.”

53 comments:

Chip S. said...

The Weinermobile was his best work, IMO.

Shouting Thomas said...

What an odd statement!

The flying buttresses holding up those cathedrals were invented to create big public spaces filled with light!

The great cathedrals of Europe were a triumphal opening of public spaces that could be enjoyed by the entire populace.

Talk about judging the past by the terms of the present!

I sincerely doubt that the concept of sin will disappear, even if everybody became an atheist. Sin is a permanent feature of the human condition. It is brilliantly explicated in the Lord's Prayer...

Forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.


I love that idea that sin is a "trespass."

mccullough said...

His work, like his political opinions and personal beliefs, is utterly conventional.

Shouting Thomas said...

In my rebellious youth, I strayed away from the Church for a long time.

The most difficult part of returning was going to confession.

Still not easy.

But, it is a very powerful method of examining one's consciousness and humbling oneself. Which I think is a very good thing.

YoungHegelian said...

Re: Awful Soviet Architecture:

"Commies love concrete" ---- P.J. O'Rourke

rhhardin said...

The trouble is candles.

Incandescent bulbs brighten up any cathedral.

Balfegor said...

On the politics, I’m with you.... But your architecture is awful. Look, I didn’t come here to criticize, but you asked. It’s terrible.”

Soviet modern architecture, Le Corbusier, Niemeyer -- they all sit in the same breathtakingly unappealing basket. Though I suppose the buildings have some aesthetic appeal from a safe distance.

YoungHegelian said...

For a guy whose politics went radical right, Le Corbusier sure was tolerant of commies as students.

Along with Niemeyer, there was the architect/composer I. Xenakis.

I can only imagine that some wine bottles got busted over various heads during political conversations at the bistro among these guys!

Ann Althouse said...

"I love that idea that sin is a "trespass.""

Think of "transgression" and it all makes sense.

The oldest definition of "sin," going back to the 800s in the OED is "An act which is regarded as a transgression of the divine law and an offence against God; a violation (esp. wilful or deliberate) of some religious or moral principle."

The oldest definition of "trespass," going back to the 1200s is "A transgression; a breach of law or duty; an offence, sin, wrong; a fault."

Both words have the sense of crossing a legal line.

"Sin" is a better English word based on its venerability and brevity.

LarsPorsena said...

Blogger Shouting Thomas said...

In my rebellious youth, I strayed away from the Church for a long time.

The most difficult part of returning was going to confession.

Still not easy.

But, it is a very powerful method of examining one's consciousness and humbling oneself. Which I think is a very good thing.

12/6/12 10:47 AM
__________________________________

The best definition of Confession I've heard is that it is "a ruthless self-inventory".

edutcher said...

The issue is he was a Commie at heart (probably a closet Nazi, too).

Commies don't get religion.

jimbino said...

It only took me an hour or two in Brasilia to get turned off to concrete forever.

Mitchell the Bat said...

"The atheist, building churches, said he 'avoided conventional solutions, which had produced the old dark cathedrals reminding us of sin.'"

So Mr. Niemeyer was into architecture for freedom's own sake.

Interesting.

LarsPorsena said...

A life embracing sterile design and empty ideology.

Shouting Thomas said...

The reason I like the word "trespass" more than "transgression" is because trespass connotes to me an invasion of the space and rights of another person.

And, there's something to the way that the Lord's Prayer states this that says to me that this trepass is an inevitable part of life, no matter how we try to avoid it.

Of course, the great contribution of Christianity was the advocacy of forgiveness and absolution.

sydney said...

So, he is responsible for our American trend toward ugly modern churches?

Renee said...


"Commies don't get religion."

I just started reading Camille Paglia's 'Glittering Images' in her introduction on page (xi) she explains how Marxism has no spiritual dimension, so it just falls flat.

Sure his buildings are cool, but they don't have staying power.

ricpic said...

And to think, stonemasons built the cathedrals and none had a degree in architecture. Bunch of uncredentialed lumpens. The scandal. THE SCANDAL!

Renee said...

You can trespass against yourself, as well.

traditionalguy said...

Sin today has morphed into not having the correct sim card.

Lord forgive us our digital flaws as we forgive those digitally flawed against us.

William said...

He criticized Soviet architecture, but didn't seem to be able to draw any lines from Communist ideology to Communist architecture. By their works you shall know them.

Clyde said...

While he may have been an atheist, he outlived his Marxist-Leninist religion by more than 20 years. Too soon old, too late wise.

Clyde said...

rhhardin said...
The trouble is candles.

Incandescent bulbs brighten up any cathedral.


There will be no incandescent bulbs at the cathedral of Gaia. Compact fluorescents only. Her worshippers wouldn't have it any other way!

Mitchell the Bat said...

Somewhat ironically, the word "trespass" found its way into The Lord's Prayer by an unfortunate mistranslation of the Aramaic word for "assumpsit."

MadisonMan said...

Though I suppose the buildings have some aesthetic appeal from a safe distance.

I was expecting a link to this.

Shouting Thomas said...

So, he is responsible for our American trend toward ugly modern churches?

I have three home parishes because I am a church musician. All three churches are incredibly beautiful in different ways.

St. John's in Woodstock is an artisan hand built church. It's small, but gorgeous. The roof of the chapel is constructed out of huge arching wooden beams.

Corpus Christi in suburban Jersey is more traditional, but still remarkably individual. The chapel features coffered wooden ceilings and beautiful stained glass representations of the Stations of the Cross.

St. Mary's in Kingston is about as traditional and old fashioned Irish Catholic in its design as you can get. The processional aisle is frame by huge columns which effectively split the church into three sections.

If you want to visit one of the most stunningly beautiful modern cathedrals in America, I recommend a visit to St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco.

Lezer said...

"Your government buildings are crap, but your forced labor camps and mental institutions for political dissidents are OK."

Marshal said...

Lezer said...
"Your government buildings are crap, but your forced labor camps and mental institutions for political dissidents are OK.


No doubt he preferred mausoleums to mass graves, but apparently the difference wasn't all that important.

Methadras said...

Communists always view their world from darkness.

Carol said...

Anyone else have trouble backing out of a WaPo site? Man that's irritating.

mojavehicular said...

Thomas, I much prefer the cathedrals in Baltimore and Hartford to San Francisco's, which is cousin to the nightmarish Tokyo Cathedral.

Shouting Thomas said...

Wow, that's an incredible pipe organ in Hartford, mojavehicular.

I'm going to have to figure out how to get my paws on that one.

Hartford is not that far away.

McTriumph said...

Looking at this douche bag's designs it's obvious the "Jetsons" was his favorite TV show.

BarryD said...

Joss Whedon is an authoritarian statist, but he produced a libertarian favorite TV series.

Never can tell.

MadisonMan said...

I liked Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral on the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco when I was there last week, although I couldn't help but wonder about being in there during an earthquake. No thanks.

deborah said...

http://www.escapeintolife
.com/wp-content/uploads
/2010/12/oscar-niemeyer
-ibirapuera-pk-sao-paulo.jpg

Peter said...

The good news is, most reinforced concrete buildings don't last all that long.

They fail because water inevitably gets inside the concrete, the rebar rusts and expands cracking the concrete, and by the time red stains appear on the outside it often costs more to repair the building than it's worth.

When one thinks of Soviety architecture, one thinks of endless blooks od dreary concrete apartment blocks.

But the old cathedrals are not dark. With their soaring gothic arches and huge windows, they are works of light.

TMink said...

What a cogent comment, the communist trying to erase the concept of sin! Beautiful and completely on point.

Trey

Michael McNeil said...

It only took me an hour or two in Brasilia to get turned off to concrete forever.

Visit the Pantheon in Rome (built 126 A.D.) to undo that.

The Romans invented concrete; they even developed a variety which would set underwater that they used in building harbor works.

Michael McNeil said...

Anyone else have trouble backing out of a WaPo site? Man that's irritating.

I suppose so. But to avoid such problems don't even try to back out. Follow the link (to Wapo or whatever) in the first place with a control-click to open up a new tab. Then when you're done just close the tab and you'll be right back at your previous location, no back out required.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

MadisonMan,

I think Grace Cathedral would withstand any earthquake short of the kind that would level the whole city.

It's a lovely place. Used (ill-advisedly) for concerts sometimes. A small choir would be OK; a Handel Messiah like the one I played in once is hopeless. There's something like three-second echo in there.

(OTOH, there's a Lady Chapel off to one side that is about the most perfect space for a small Baroque vocal recital I know of.)

Peter said...

"Visit the Pantheon in Rome (built 126 A.D.) to undo that.".

It's the rebar that limits the useful life of most concrete structures. If they'd put rebar in the Pantheon's dome it would have collapsed long before the Western Empire did.

And, BTW, if you want to see an attractive concrete structure that's newer than the Pantheon, there's always FLW's Unity Temple in Oak Park, IL.

Although there's surely more than enough of those nasty Brutalist concrete structures to sour one's overall view of concrete buildings.

Jake Diamond said...

Of course, the great contribution of Christianity was the advocacy of forgiveness and absolution.

As well as being responsible for killing millions of people.

Renee said...

Hey Jake,

The Pope is on Twitter, make sure follow him so you can share your insights.

Jake Diamond said...

Renee -

As a general rule, I don't follow the tweets of anyone who served with the Hitler Youth.

Hey, speaking of being responsible for killing millions of people...

Anglelyne said...

"The atheist, building churches, said he 'avoided conventional solutions, which had produced the old dark cathedrals reminding us of sin.'"

Anybody who could walk into the great Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals and see nothing but sin has got something missing in his heart. They are pure soaring joy. (Awesome on the sculptural depiction of sin, too - but why would you want to get rid of that?)

Anyway, a lot of the "darkness" is just the accumulated grime of time. A bit of professsional restorationist's cleaning has had a remarkable transformative effect.

Renee said...

As you and I know, the Pope was a minor and it was not voluntary. Facts or even opinions don't matter, your objective is do harm.

Methadras said...

MadisonMan said...

I liked Grace (Episcopal) Cathedral on the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco when I was there last week, although I couldn't help but wonder about being in there during an earthquake. No thanks.


Grace Cathedral is a wonderful place to be. The religious artwork that lines it and the architecture are very appealing to me. Nob Hill is one of the nicer parts of San Fransisco and I always like hitting the eateries around the area.

Jake Diamond said...

As you and I know, the Pope was a minor and it was not voluntary

As we both know, some refused to join. In fact, by some estimates, as much as 20% refused to join. Therefore, whether or not it was "required," Ratzinger could have resisted. But he didn't, as so many others bravely did.

BarryD said...

My father avoided going to the Hitler Youth.

And yes, Christianity has killed millions. Roman Catholicism supported despotism for centuries, too, and off and on has been as corrupt as the worst governments.

It may have its good points, but that doesn't mean it never has to answer to the bad ones.

Renee said...

It was 1941, and at the time the Pope turned 14.

It wasn't voluntary.


"By December 1936, HJ membership stood at just over five million. That same month, HJ membership became mandatory for Aryans, under the Gesetz ├╝ber die Hitlerjugend law. This legal obligation was re-affirmed in 1939 with the Jugenddienstpflicht and HJ membership was required even when it was opposed by the member's parents. Massaquoi claims,[10] though, that the war did not allow the law to go very far. From then on, most of Germany's teenagers belonged to the HJ. By 1940, it had eight million members. Later war figures are difficult to calculate, since massive conscription efforts and a general call-up of boys as young as 10 years old meant that virtually every young male in Germany was, in some way, connected to the HJ. Only about 10 to 20% were able to avoid joining.[11]"

Renee said...

"Roman Catholicism supported despotism for centuries, too, and off and on has been as corrupt as the worst governments."

So does the United States of America.

Renee said...

New pope defied Nazis as teen during WWII

Pretty detailed account of the events....


"Because Benedict acknowledged his past and because of the circumstances of his involvement, most people, including Jewish groups in Germany and Israel, have been understanding.

"He was a very young person when this happened, it was hardly a matter of choice, and what counts is what he's done in the last 30 years in Jewish-Catholic dialogue," said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee's Berlin office.

At the right time, she suggested, the pope may share more of his past.

"We do have someone who has memories of the time, who certainly participated ... on the side of people who were perpetrating mass crimes. So I think the appropriate thing is that at the appropriate moment he is reflective about this personal biography — it will mean a lot in the Jewish world.""