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Sun Dec 21 18:32:20 SAST 2014

Brazilian star architect Oscar Niemeyer turns 104

Sapa-dpa | 14 December, 2011 14:14
Workers remove a painting by artist Fontela from an exhibition at Niemeyer Center in the northern Spanish town of Aviles
Inside the Niemeyer Center in Aviles, Spain. The cultural centre, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, closed its doors to the public on December 11, 2011. Niemeyer turns 104 on December 15.
Image by: ELOY ALONSO / REUTERS

Brazil's star architect Oscar Niemeyer is set to turn 104 on Thursday, and he still has no plans to retire.

Brazilian media report he is not expected to hold large parties but will probably celebrate, as usual, with friends and loved ones at his home and office on Copacabana beach, in his native Rio de Janeiro.

The man who was awarded the 1988 Pritzker Prize continues to devote his afternoons to working on new projects, including a theatre with a capacity for 2 500 people on Flamengo Park, near Rio's Sugarloaf Mountain.

"I came up with a solution that is capable of prompting surprise and attracting the public: a magnificent dome which would be built before the Sugarloaf Mountain," he recently wrote.

Among other projects, Niemeyer continues to publish the magazine Nosso Caminho (Our Way), which deals with politics, philosophy and architecture. He publishes it along with his second wife Vera Lucia, 66.

Also Thursday, the new headquarters of Brazil's election authority, based on a project by Niemeyer, are set to be inaugurated in Brasilia. The futuristic semicircular building cost around 175 million dollars, and it is part of Niemeyer's design for the Brazilian capital.

Meanwhile, in the northern Spanish town of Aviles, where the Niemeyer Cultural Centre, which opened barely nine months ago, has been closed until further notice amid a political spat. Niemeyer once described it as his most important work in Europe.

Born in Rio de Janeiro on December 15, 1907 into a middle-class family, Niemeyer made an international name for himself as an architect with the design of the United Nations' headquarters in New York and the monumental construction of Brasilia in the 1940s and 1950s.

Niemeyer, a disciple of Le Corbusier who made curves his trademark, is also well known for his work in the Paris headquarters of the French Communist Party and those of the Mondadori publishing house near Milan, among many others.

Over the decades, Niemeyer's talent allowed him to overcome the suspicions that his loyalty to communism prompted among potential employers.

Now, as he approaches his 104th birthday, he remains happy, but also aware of life's difficulties.

"The future is problematic and uncertain for us all," he said.

"What may still provide some comfort is to have a woman, a good companion, by one's side."

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