Research beyond borders

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Global Challenges Research Fund Town Meeting

map-221210_1280The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is holding a meeting at The Studio in Birmingham on 4th November 2016 about the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and to provide an opportunity to hear about the AHRC’s plans for supporting arts and humanities research as a part of the GCRF. There will be a specific focus on a new AHRC GCRF call for Area Focussed Large Grantsdue to be open in October 2016.

The meeting, which will start at 10.30am (registration from 10.00am) and finish around 3.30pm, will be an opportunity to:

  • hear some background on the GCRF and the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call
  • speak to Research Council staff about possible applications.

In addition, the event will give researchers the opportunity to network and explore possible research partnerships and collaborations to support potential future applications under the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call.

Who is the event for?

The event is open to academic researchers who are interested in applying to the funding call, and to potential partners from outside academia who might be interested in the opportunity to initiate possible collaborations that might lead to research bids.

The event is an opportunity to:

  • find out about the Global Challenges Research Fund and the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call
  • discuss with experts the challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary working and co-delivery with end-users
  • put questions about the GCRF and the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call direct to funders
  • network with potential collaborators from other discipline areas or as end-users of research.

How to Register

If you are interested in attending the event please contact confirming your interest and providing a brief summary of no more than 300 words, outlining your academic expertise in the area and your interest in the AHRC Area Focussed Large Grants funding call.

The closing date for expressing your interest in attending the event is 12 noon on the 20th October.

Please Note: For those invited to attend the event this summary information will be shared among other participants to support the networking aspects of the event. Your application therefore needs to include a statement confirming that you are happy for this information to be shared with other participants if invited to attend the event.

Attendance at the event is expected to be at the applicants’ expense. However if this is a barrier to attendance for non-academic partners please contact the AHRC to discuss further.

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The Olympic Games as a Research Subject

Olympic Tennis, Centre Court, #rio2016 Credit: Andy Miah

Olympic Tennis, Centre Court, #rio2016 Credit: Andy Miah

Our latest Guest Blog is by Professor Andy Miah from University of Salford, Manchester.

Fencing - Credit - Andy Miah

Fencing – Credit – Andy Miah

Depending on when you start counting, Olympic research has been around now for either a century, or a good 40 years. Emerging out of a range of disciplines, Olympic researchers can now be found in schools of architecture, sport science, leisure and tourism, cultural studies, sociology, politics, journalism, economics, and many more.

There is even work in philosophy, which draws on the idea of Olympism, a foundational concept in the modern revival of the Olympic Games. Indeed, philosophers have dedicated considerable time to analyzing the ideas that operate around the Olympic Games, such as amateurism, fair play, and the nature of game playing.

The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, conceived three pillars of the Olympic movement, notably sport, culture and education.

Athletes' welcome at Rio 2016 Olympic Village - Credit - Andy Miah

Athletes’ welcome at Rio 2016 Olympic Village – Credit – Andy Miah

The International Olympic Committee is organized through a number of commissions, of which education is one, and it runs a research funding programme for senior and PhD students, investing into all kinds of research, from analyses of the Olympic programme, to investigations into how to deal with the doping dilemma.

This may be seen as a golden age of Olympic research, as the recently appointed IOC President Thomas Bach seems more inclined to involve academics within its ecosystem, but even outside of this, Olympic research is thriving. It finds itself also in business schools, where event and festival management are big topics. The International Society of Olympic Historians even held a press conference in the Main Press Centre of the Games, and various academic events have happened during the Olympics. One of the more regular events is the International Sport Business Symposium, which took place on 16th August.

Of course, the Olympic Games is also a big news issue, generating headlines around corruption, scandal, exclusion, and general controversy. The Rio 2016 Olympic Games is a case in point, with allegations of corruption to IOC officials, bad behavior by athletes generating debate about western media bias, and wider discussions about the social impact of the Games on a nation that is already in considerable economic and political turmoil.

Rio De Janiero, the Olympic Rings alongside a favela. Credit - Andy Miah

Rio De Janiero, the Olympic Rings alongside a favela. Credit – Andy Miah

Even the Subway Trains have quirky Olympic Motifs. Credit: Andy Miah

Even the Subway Trains have quirky Olympic Motifs. Credit: Andy Miah

My own Games time experience is always a mixture of objectives. Rio is my 10th Olympic Games, which started in Sydney, and has extended through all Winter, Summer, and now Youth Olympic Games.  While at the Games, I continue my own empirical work into media change and innovation, while also interviewing for the media on various topics, and writing on areas of interest, related to my research.


Together, these experiences allow me to understand a wide range of what the Games entails, a perspective that only an accredited academic can really achieve. Nobody in the organizing committee has the space in their agenda to really develop such an overarching observer perspective, and this is why it is so important for arts and humanities academics to be at the Games. If you are outside of the Olympic bubble, it is hard to move around and get access to all the components of the Olympic Games, but there is also something lost by spending time just inside this circle. Researching the Olympic Games provides access to a remarkable range of complex social, political, cultural, and economic issues, which is what has always fascinated me about it.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony - Credit - Andy Miah

Rio 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony – Credit – Andy Miah

In the public imagination, the games are centrally about the pinnacle of human physical achievement. Personal endeavour played out through world record breaking performances of the athletes whose stories are among the most compelling biographies that history has to offer. Yet, being an Olympic researcher also means falling in between the cracks of research assessment and evaluation, which is why it’s also wise to combine it with a broader interest in how the Games are situated in society. Indeed, this facet is what makes Olympic research so crucial.


Nicola Adams wins Gold in Boxing #Rio2016 - Credit Andy Miah -

Nicola Adams wins Gold in Boxing #Rio2016 – Credit Andy Miah –

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Design and the Rio 2016 Olympics

Rio Landscape Credits: © Alex Ferro/Rio 2016

Rio Landscape
Credits: © Alex Ferro/Rio 2016

As we all prepare to be enthralled by the latest events at the Paralympic games, our latest Guest Blog by Frederico Duarte from Birkbeck College, London, talks about the challenges faced in “Design of the City & the Rio 2016 Olympics”. This Blog is part of a on-going series, where researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts that relate their analysis to everything Olympics.

Frederico is a Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) PhD student on a Grant led by Principal Investigator Dr Luciana Martins on the AHRC Funded project on ‘Our poor, beautiful and culturally rich country’ the contemporary challenge of Brazilian design’. Here he uses his studentship to best effect, and ultimately demonstrates implications for the future development of design theory and practice in Brazil.

“When in 2009 Rio de Janeiro won the bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games the news was met with great cheer. Seven years on, the optimistic landscape has changed. Brazil’s economy is in recession, its politics in turmoil. Olympic ideals aside, Brazilians have protested against lavish public spending on big events while investment in health, education and essential infrastructure is cut short.

However, the design of the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games is something Brazilians should be proud of. On my PhD research, which I am conducting under an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between the Victoria & Albert Museum and Birkbeck, University of London, I am investigating the challenge of Brazilian design. This means looking beyond grand projects to focus on often small design achievements that Brazilians and the rest of the world should pay attention to.

Rio 2016 Symbol                                   Rio Symbol – Credits: © Ismar Ingber/Rio2016


Rio 2016’s visual identity, which complements one of the world’s most recognised icons, the Olympic Rings, is a case in point. Developed by the local consultancy Tátil Design, known for its pioneering approach to sustainability, Rio 2016 symbol’s organic shapes aptly embrace the city’s unique natural landscape with a vivid use of colour. Its three-dimensional version is given to each medal-winning athlete instead of a flower bouquet.

      The Rio 2016 brand launch video was directed by Andrucha Waddington, one of the three authors of the August 5th Opening Ceremony © Rio 2016

The two Rio 2016 mascots were designed by Birdo (Luciana Eguti and Paulo Muppet) to playfully represent the flora and fauna of the country with the world’s richest biodiversity, highlighting Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic commitment to sustainability.

Caption: Introducing Vinicius and Tom, the Rio 2016 Mascots © Rio 2016

The renowned São Paulo-based industrial design office Chelles & Hayashi created the ingenious Olympic Torch which when lit opens up to reveal Brazil’s national colours – blue, yellow and green.

Twelve thousand Olympic torches  were produced and relayed throughout Brazil.

The Olympic Torch © Rio 2016

The Olympic Torch © Rio 2016

Over 5000 Rio 2016 medals were designed by Nelson Carneiro and produced at the Brazilian mint. Their design is innovative on a formal, sustainable and accessible level: all medals are thicker in the centre and thinner on the edges; the gold medals are 100% mercury-free and the silver and bronze medals are made with 30% recycled metal. The Paralympic medals contain metal spheres that ring differently according to their rank, allowing visually-impaired athletes to know they were given the right medal according to their place on the Olympic podium.

Making of the Olympic and Paralympic Medals © Rio 2016


The Olympic Games Opening Ceremony was conceived and coordinated by film directors Fernando Meirelles, Andrucha Waddington and Daniela Thomas, who is also a renowned set designer. The show, which costed a tenth of the London 2012 ceremony, emphasised the Olympic spirit of diversity and tolerance and Brazil’s inventiveness in the face of scarcity. Despite a few eyebrows raised over the portrayal of national stereotypes, the ceremony was also a true showcase of Brazilian modern design: from Santos Dumont’s 14-bis airplane to the landscaping of Roberto Burle Marx, the tile panels of Athos Bulcão to the curves of Oscar Niemeyer’s architecture – drawn on stage by supermodel Gisele Bündchen. And that is certainly a cause for celebration.

The closing ceremony on August 21st included a special homage to Carmen Miranda and Roberto Burle-Marx yet it was the poetic tribute to the millions of craftsmen and craftswomen, the potters and lacemakers of Brazil, that will stay as one of the most endearing memories of the Olympic celebration.

Bobbin lacemaker in a tribute to craft during the Rio 2016 Olympics closing ceremony © Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Bobbin lacemaker in a tribute to craft during the Rio 2016 Olympics closing ceremony © Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

I’m now halfway through my three-month research trip in Brazil, where I am conducting interviews with design professionals, students and academics to better understand the complexity and specificity of Brazilian contemporary design. If you know of someone I should talk to, do get in touch.



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The Olympic Games varied layers of Cultural Programming

 As we all continue to be enthralled by the latest events at the Olympic games, our latest Guest Blog by Dr Beatriz Garcia from University of Liverpool, talks about the Olympic Games’ varied layers of cultural programming. “. This Blog is part of a on-going series, where researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts that relate their analysis to the Olympics.

Dr Beatriz Garcia

Dr Beatriz Garcia. Picture credit Dr Beatriz Garcia

Dr Beatriz Garcia is in Rio throughout the 2016 Olympic Games, as she has done since 2000 across nine Olympic cities.

The focus for Beatriz is one of the Games shiftier components: the often confusing and hard to pin-down ‘official’ Olympic cultural programme or Cultural Olympiad.

Rio is the first summer Games host city that has decided to break with the tradition started by the Barcelona 1992 organisers in 1988, when they decided to launch their cultural programme just at the end of the Seoul Games and develop it over four years (an Olympiad) so as to explore different themes in the lead up to their Games. In Rio there has been no four-year Cultural Olympiad, and there was not a clear cultural and arts hand-over from London 2012. Instead, we find a collection of separate short programmes, mostly happening during Games time in 2016, and led by two main entities:

  • the Municipality of Rio, through the Secretary of Tourism, which have commissioned the Olympic Boulevard programme
  • the International Olympic Committee (IOC), through its Foundation for Culture and Olympic Heritage which, for the first time at an Olympic Games, is taking the lead on a series of high profile artistic initiatives.

The culture team at the Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee were also aspiring to present the programme ‘Celebra‘ to highlight cultural and arts expression across Rio. However, budget constraints and branding tensions have prevented the programme from reaching its full potential. Despite some early attempts at presenting an eclectic collection of mini-festivals and art ‘pop-ups’ (an increasingly popular concept worldwide, fuelled by social-media), during Games time, this programme is noticed by its absence. Instead, the main legacy of the Celebra team will be two Olympic staples, coordinated by the IOC and used mainly as a Games heritage referent for the future: the official ‘Olympic Film’ and a series of ‘Olympic Posters’.

Given the lack of an official Cultural Olympiad with a dedicated website and brochure, visitors and residents remain largely unaware of the points of connection between a range of cultural expressions inspired by the Olympic Games. However, interesting cultural interventions are shaping the Olympic city and merit a mention.


Olympic Art in Rio 2016: Highlights

Olympic Boulevard:

Olympic Boulevard - Credit Beatriz Garcia

Olympic Boulevard – Credit Beatriz Garcia

Following a tradition started in Atlanta in 1996 and presented most successfully in Sydney 2000 and London 2012, Rio is hosting a series of LiveSites to enable people without tickets to the sporting competitions to celebrate collectively. The site in Porto Maravilhas is the largest LiveSite in Olympic history and has acted as a catalyst to regenerate a previously derelict area in the city. The area is now host to the Museum of Tomorrow, designed by ‘starchitect’ Santiago Calatrava, and a series of large graffiti artworks, most notably, this piece by Brazilian artist Kobra, which has gone into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest piece of graffiti by a single artist.

  • Museum of Tomorrow - Credit - Dr Beatriz Garcia

    Museum of Tomorrow – Credit – Dr Beatriz Garcia

    Large Graffiti by Artist Kobra - Credit Beatriz Garcia

    Largest Graffitti by single artist Kobra – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Artists in Residence programme

  • The IOC has funded the first Artist in Residence programme at an Olympic Games, featuring French graffiti artist JR as well as German writer Tilman Spengler and American vine artist Gerald Andal. The work of JR
    Picture Credit - Andy Miah

    By French Graffiti Artist JR -Picture Credit – Andy Miah

    has been particularly successful given its high visibility in key city locations and its capacity to engage the general public. Read the Olympic Artist in Residence by Beatriz Garcia.

National Hospitality Houses

  • This is one of the most popular offerings in the Olympic city for those who have no tickets to sport. These Houses do not consistentlyoffer cultural or artistic expressions but are viewed as a way for local residents to ‘travel the world’, while in their city and attract large queues.


    National House – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Other cultural activity taking place but with low visibility includes:

  • Olympic inspired programming throughout Rio cultural museums, galleries, theatres and concert halls. This work was originally framed under a new scheme, Passaporte Cultural, offering opportunities to follow city-wide art circuits. However, the scheme had to beinterrupted. Exhibitions such as Utopian Design, documenting a century of Olympic graphic design are, in place, for those keen and able to find the information.
  • Linkages with artists from the next summer host, Tokyo 2020, through the work of sculptor Mariko Mori and her ‘sixth Olympic ring’
  • Continuation of the artist-led Olympic Poster tradition, resulting in 13 posters by 13 Brazilian contemporary artists

Overall, despite the achievements, a series of important challenges remain for cultural programming in the Olympic city. The most important one is the lack of unified branding and denominations for Olympic related cultural programming, which makes much of this activity invisible to Olympic fans. The hashtag #olympicArt has been suggested as a means to tag activity but, so far, the take up is slow and of mixed relevance.


National House – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

Rather than be exposed to unique, provocative and meaningful cultural interventions, a majority of Olympic fans and local residents will be exposed instead to generic entertainment and corporate promotions from the Olympic sponsors. These kinds of activities are highly visible in all key city spaces and in the areas surrounding the Olympic venues, such as Olympic Park. This is a lost opportunity at a time when people from all over the world come together and the host city – as well as Olympic Movement heritage stakeholders – have a chance at taking a global platform to tell their story. Dr Beatriz Garcia is observing how this varied (fragmented) cultural programme evolves and how its narrative progresses, both through official and unofficial (online, user-led) channels.

This work informs her long-term research on the cultural dimensions of the Olympic Games and the role art and artists can play in shaping Olympic narratives and broadening up Games-time voices from a local, national and international identity point of view. Follow up stories can be found at:





Oly Design - Credit - Beatriz Garcia

Oly Design – Credit – Beatriz Garcia

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Funding Opportunities in Horizon 2020’s Societal Challenges for Indian Participation

Horizon 2020


This brief note highlights opportunities for cross-disciplinary research with Indian researchers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), research institutions and universities under Horizon 2020 created by a recently agreed co-funding mechanism between the European Commission and the Government of India’s Department of Bio-Technology (DBT), by which DBT (subject to a positive evaluation) could fund Indian researchers collaborating in projects selected for funding under specific calls around biotechnology.

Within the calls agreed are some ‘flagged’ by the European Commission as challenges that require the inclusion of social science and humanities (SSH) research. The following lists the topics upcoming under the 2016/17 Work Programmes for Horizon 2020 which have been identified by DBT as priority areas for collaboration:


‘SSH-flagged’ topics available for Indian participation


Opening Date Closing Date
1st Stage 2nd Stage
BIOTEC-07-2017: New plant breeding techniques (NPBT) in molecular farming: multipurpose crops for industrial bioproducts* 11/05/16 27/10/16 04/05/17
SC1-PM-07-2017: Promoting mental health and wellbeing in the young 29/07/16 04/10/16 11/04/17
SC1-PM-08-2017: New therapies for rare diseases* 29/07/16 04/10/16 11/04/17
SC1-PM-10-2017: Comparing the effectiveness of existing healthcare interventions in the adult population 29/07/16 04/10/16 11/04/17
LCE-06-2017: New knowledge and technologies 20/09/16 n/a 05/01/17
SFS-34-2017: Innovative agri-food chains:  unlocking the potential for competitiveness and sustainability 04/10/16 14/02/17 13/09/17
SFS-35-2017: Innovative solutions for sustainable food packaging 04/10/16 n/a 14/02/17
BG-08-2017: Innovative solutions for improving the safety and dietary properties of seafood 04/10/16 n/a 14/02/17
SC1-PM-17-2017: Personalised computer models  and in-silico systems for wellbeing 08/11/16 n/a 14/03/17

Further Information about Indian participation in Horizon 2020

European Commission India Country Page:


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Soft Power, Cinema and the BRICS

As we start to follow the Olympics, a number of researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts relating to this topic.  Welcome to the second of such presentations, which also feature on the AHRC Website, where events, case-studies, features and the latest funding opportunities may also be viewed.

In this guest post written by Professor Stephanie Dennison from the Faculty of Arts Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds , she demonstrates how their AHRC Funded  project on Soft Power, Cinema and the BRICS Brics(BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has kept their interest in such matters and how this has influenced their observation of Brazil Braziland the Olympics.

In 2009 The Economist announced Brazil’s arrival on the world stage with a cover depicting Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ Statue literally ‘taking off’. Its economy was buoyant, it had already been confirmed as host of the 2014 World Cup, it was brokering new international partnerships, such as those that would lead to the formation of the BRICS, and, in the midst of such international profile-raising fervour, Rio de Janeiro won the race to host the 2016 summer Olympics. It was precisely at this time that Brazil began to be included in discussions on soft power, a term coined by Joseph Nye to describe a new trend in International Relations according to which nations gain favour based more on attraction and their persuasive ability than by military intervention  and sanctions (hard power). By 2012, Monocle magazine was declaring that ‘the sun is shining on brand Brazil’. Now, within days of the start of the Rio Olympics, the picture is quite different: Brazil is in its worst recession in 25 years, the elected president has been removed from power by way of an ongoing and legally suspect process of impeachment, and criticisms in both the international press and by a wide range of Brazilians of different political persuasions of the preparations for the summer Olympics have been relentless.


Members of the AHRC research network Soft Power, Cinema and the BRICS are keenly observing both the impact in the international media and within Brazil of the Rio Olympics. We can already see that, despite Brazil’s habit of equating cultural diplomacy with reputation management, which itself derives from a long history of being misrepresented on screen and in print, there has been no such drive coming from official circles in Brazil to correct, challenge or even reflect on the relentlessness of the criticisms aimed at the country in the run-up to the Games. This may well be explained by the Games being a municipal and State-focused initiative, where, for example, the World Cup wasn’t, and also by dint of its association with the Workers Party, who were in power when the Games were awarded to Brazil, and whose legacy the interim government seems determined to overturn. There is also nothing new to bashing Olympic hosts (London being no exception). But, it’s what comes next that promises to be particularly meaningful for our research: unless an unprecedented infrastructural failure takes place (which is highly unlikely at this stage) soft-power gains stand to be made by Brazil from an opening ceremony that captures the imagination of an international audience, and from the performance and medal success of Brazilian athletes. To date neither of these aspects has been the subject of interest of the international news media.

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After Brasília: the modern city in Brazil, 1960 to the present

Lina Bo Bardi, MASP, São Paulo (1968) - Kindly Supplied by Richard Williams

Lina Bo Bardi, MASP, São Paulo (1968) – Kindly Supplied by Richard Williams

As we approach the Olympics, a number of researchers and academics have kindly agreed to submit posts relating to this topic.  This is the first of such presentations, which also feature on the AHRC Website, where events, case-studies, features and the latest funding opportunities may also be viewed.

In this guest post written by Professor Richard Williams , Head of History of Art & Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures from the Edinburgh College of ArtUniversity of Edinburgh, he talks about his research project on After Brasília: the modern city in Brazil, 1960 to the present.  This was an AHRC Funded project that explored the architecture of the Brazilian city after the inauguration of the planned capital city, probably the greatest single monument to architectural modernism. It paid a lot of attention to the big cities of the south east of the country, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, exploring high rise landscapes there, the phenomenon of the favela, and the concrete monuments of so-called Paulista Brutalism, a kind of architectural parallel evolution which produced, quite independently, work that looks a lot like the buildings on London’s South Bank.

Oscar Niemeyer,Edifício Copan São Paulo (1952-61) - With thanks to Richard Williams

Oscar Niemeyer, Edifício Copan São Paulo (1952-61) – With thanks to Richard Williams

At the time the project was done, Brazil’s architectural profile was relatively low – it aimed to bring to attention again sites that had been for some years neglected by the international architectural media.

Brasilia Supreme Federal Court

Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, Praça dos Tres Poderes, Brasília (1960) – With thanks to Richard Williams

It also explored the larger phenomenon of modernization. Brazil’s spectacular modernist architecture was matched by similarly spectacular investments in hydroelectric production, agriculture, air transport, and (sometimes) roads. At various points in the twentieth century, at least in image, Brazil could claim it was the most modern country in the world.

That modernization tended to come at a cost. The construction of Brasília arguably led to decades of debt, coupled with hyperinflation, and political instability in various combinations. It certainly produced a city that played out the country’s manifest contradictions: a pristine and organized central city surrounded by a much larger, and much poorer, informal one. Modernization in Brazil in the twentieth century seemed always to bring with it its opposite, so what it sought most to abolish, the sight of poverty, always returned.

That story has been repeated, in updated form, endlessly in the media coverage of the World Cup in 2014 and most recently with the preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games, in which massive infrastructural works have been surrounded by talk of disease, corruption and financial collapse. While the media representation of Brazil’s cities still tends to the catastrophic, as ever, the project helped restore architectural interest in them: they have a boldness, scale and complexity that makes them truly global property.

Paraisópolis favela, São Paulo, c. 2009 - Kindly supplied by Richard Williams

Paraisópolis favela, São Paulo, c. 2009 – Kindly supplied by Richard Williams


Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, Praça dos Tres Poderes, Brasília (1960)

Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, Praça dos Tres Poderes, Brasília (1960). With thanks to Richard Williams.


Oscar Niemeyer, Casa das Canoas, Rio de Jameiro (1951)

Oscar Niemeyer, Casa das Canoas, Rio de Jameiro (1951) With thanks to Richard Williams.

Additional Links kindly supplied by the author: