|The cathedral in Brasilia designed
by Oscar Niemeyer [AFP]
The renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer has celebrated his 100th birthday with family and friends in Rio de Janeiro.
The winner of the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s most prestigious award, in 1988 his career spanning more than seven decades has been known for his futuristic designs.
His most famous works include government buildings in the purpose-built capital Brasilia.
Built on the empty plains of central Brazil, the capital was designed and built in only four years. Inaugurated in 1960, it today has 2.2 million people.
“Brasilia represents at the very least a moment of a lot of enthusiasm about Brazil,” he said on Saturday.
Among his other works are the headquarters of the French Communist Party in Paris. He also helped design the UN building in New York.
Niemeyer’s birthday has been treated as a national event in Brazil. Politicians, writers and others came by the house to congratulate him. In recent days he also has been honored by other countries including France and Russia.
The birthday party with family and friends was held at the curvy Casa das Canoas, designed by Niemeyer in 1953 as a family residence and now a museum and headquarters of the Niemeyer Foundation.
“I am just a human being like any other, nothing special. I don’t know why I have lasted so long,” he told reporters as he enjoyed a cigarette and glass of champagne
He continues to work from his office in Rio de Janeiro, the city in which he was born.
A lifelong communist who went into self-imposed exile for several years during Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, Niemeyer said he was optimistic about the future of Latin America because he felt the poor were beginning to organise in opposition to what he called the “Bush Empire.”