Minimalist Illustrations Celebrate the Beauty of Oscar Niemeyer’s Modern Architecture

Oscar Niemeyer Modernist Architecture Illustration by Levente Szabo

Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre (Avilés, 2011)

Freelance graphic designer and illustrator Levente Szabó is known for his crisp, clean style that has attracted clients like Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Books. Recently, he completed a personal project exploring the modernist architecture of Oscar Niemeyer. The resulting illustrations are a brilliant marriage between Szabó's minimalist style and the abstract curves of Niemeyer's buildings.

While Szabó first learned of the acclaimed Brazilian architect's work during his time at university, at the time he wasn't a fan of modern architecture. Too cold for his tastes, he couldn't connect. But a few months ago, he came across a work by Niemeyer that made him change his mind. “I caught a glimpse of a strange plate-shaped architecture that sparked my interest—it was the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum,” Szabó tells My Modern Met. “It looked fantastic—a bright white shape against the deep blue sky with a red ramp going up to the entrance. I immediately knew that I wanted to make an illustration based on this building, and the project quickly outgrew itself after some Googling.”

Across ten vibrant illustrations, Szabó captures the magic of Niemeyer's architecture. Best known for designing the civic buildings in Brasilia, as well as his work with other architects on the UN Headquarters in New York, Niemeyer's career spanned more than 75 years until his death in 2012. Niemeyer was a key figure in developing modern architecture and was particularly lauded for his work with reinforced concrete. His examination of concrete's aesthetic possibilities would go on to influence 20th- and 21st-century architectural styles like Brutalism.

Throughout the project, Szabó learned more about Niemeyer and his architectural philosophy. In particular, the architect's belief that architecture should represent the female form was interesting to the illustrator. As Niemeyer once said, “My work is not about ‘form follows function,’ but ‘form follows beauty’ or, even better, ‘form follows feminine.’ ”

The minimalist drawings are filled with bright color blocks that make each organic shape pop, bringing Niemeyer's signature curves to the forefront. And in selecting pieces of architecture from all stages of Niemeyer's career, Szabó allows viewers to see how his signature style translates to any moment in history. Beginning with 1943's Casa do Baile, a small restaurant built on an artificial island, and ending with 2011's monumental Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre, it's incredible to see how the acclaimed architect adapted his style without compromising his beliefs.

Levente Szabó's minimalist illustrations celebrate the work of acclaimed modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Illustration of the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Rio de Janeiro, 1996)

Architecture Illustration by Levente Szabo

Casa do Baile (Pampulha, 1943)

Architecture Illustration by Levente Szabo

Oscar Niemeyer Museum
(Curitibá, 2003)

Minimal Illustrations of Oscar Niemeyer Architecture

Palacio da Alvorada (Brasília, 1958)

Minimal Illustrations of Oscar Niemeyer Architecture

Casa de Canoas (Rio de Janeiro, 1953)

Architecture Illustration by Levente Szabo

Cathedral of Brasília (Brasília, 1970)

Minimal Illustrations of Oscar Niemeyer Architecture

Niemeyer Popular Theater (Rio de Janeiro, 1997)

Oscar Niemeyer Modernist Architecture Illustration by Levente Szabo

Palace of the National Congress (Brasília, 1985)

Oscar Niemeyer Modernist Architecture Illustration by Levente Szabo

Biblioteca Nacional de Brasília (Brasília, 1960)

Oscar Niemeyer Modernist Architecture Illustration by Levente Szabo

Levente Szabó: Website | Behance | Instagram | Pinterest

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Levente Szabó.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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