Exploring screen printing, Stage 1 – Sketchbook work

19 January 2016

The topic for my sketchbook is “The work of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer”, who designed in the movement of International Style. I had intended to supplement my sketchbook by including a few images of Brutalist architecture, but Niemeyer’s work generated so many ideas, that I decided to include the Brutalist material a new sketchbook on the subject of architecture (in general).

I started by collecting images which interested me from the following sources (1,2,3). I also looked at magazines articles (4,5,6). I then produced a sketchbook, taking images and making my own analogies and drawing design ideas from them.

Niemeyer’s work was bold and distinctive. He designed not just for his native Brazil, but also countries worldwide, including Spain, Algeria and the UK (1,2,3). 

The characteristics which I love about his work are:

  1. The contrasting use of straight and curved forms (Niemeyer frequently used the human form as a starting point for his designs (2), in addition to bold angular shapes).
  2. The bold and daring use of colour (frequently painted concrete), and the way in which the colour schemes incorporate the landscape (e.g bright blue sky, grass, rock).
  3. The use of plants to soften hard architectural forms – The use of palm trees, mahogany trees, vines and other vegetation as a foil for the abrupt corners and hard edges of his buildings
  4. The use of shutters and sunscreens as a design feature, diffusing and reflecting light and modifying the perception of colour to the eye, and also to add textural interest to a building’s surface.
  5. The use of reflections in water – to make symmetrical forms, to make new shapes and textures (e.g. ripples in a building reflection)

 I have filled a whole sketchbook with ideas based on 17 buildings. In particular, have concentrated on:

  1. Extracting the main shapes from a building or building complex design
  2. Analogies of texture using different media
  3. Changing scale (enlarging an image or taking small sections from an image)
  4. Adding to shapes and textures (with my own ideas), or subtracting from them (simplifying a design idea)
  5. Re-arranging shapes to make new visual ideas
  6. Cutting shapes into smaller pieces to make new shapes
  7. Using the negative shape from an image (or both the negative and positive shapes)
  8. Looking at the effect of a tonal study
  9. Looking at the effect of different colour combinations
  10. Using the images more or less unchanged
I would have liked time to develop several of my ideas further, however I had to select my favourites to concentrate on. Designs which stood out with lots of potential for development were:

1. School – Belo Horizonte
Window frames and building shapes as a starting point for collage work

2. Palace of the Dawn – Brasilia
Shape, tone and texture. Reflections.
3. Museum of contemporary art – Niteroi
Studies of colour, texture and form.
4. University – Brasilia
Concrete texture and weathering. 


  1. Hess, A. (2009) Oscar Niemeyer Buildings. Rizzoli, New York
  2. Papadaki, S. (1960) A117 Masters of world architecture. George Braziller Inc. New York
  3. Anon (2003) Oscar Niemeyer Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2003. Serpentine Gallery. London
  4. Jordan, L. (2015) Brasilia Metropolitan Cathedral. Travel Design destinations. Elle Decoration. January 2015.
  5. Thomas, T. (n.d.) Oscar Niemeyer – architect of the people. Escape Into Life. Available from: http://www.escapeintolife.com/essays/oscar-niemeyer-architect-of-the-people/ [Accessed 1 February 2016]
  6. Niemeyer, O. (2012) Oscar Niemeyer: a life in architecture – in pictures. The Guardian. 6 December 2012. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2012/dec/06/oscar-niemeyer-life-architecture-pictures %5BAccessed 1 February 2016]



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