Brazil opens Niemeyer museum as he turns 103

15th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer marked his 103rd birthday Wednesday with a gift too big to be wrapped with a bow: a museum bearing his name and dedicated to his illustrious career.

"My friends have come to see me. How nice," he told reporters at a reception unveiling the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation in nearby Niteroi.

The modern city 14 kilometres (eight miles) outside Rio de Janeiro, is already brimming with modernist works by the building design master, including the city's chief landmark, the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum.

The new museum houses designs, drawings, models and other architecture artifacts from Niemeyer's 70-year career.

Meanwhile in Aviles in northern Spain officials inaugurated the dome of the Oscar Niemyer Cultural Centre, the first building designed by the architect in the country.

It is being erected in a port area in what was the centre of the city's steel industry in the 1950s before it fell into decline.

The building will feature an auditorium, a sight-seeing tower, an exhibition centre and a large outdoor square that will serve as a venue for cultural activities when it opens in March 2011.

Local officials hope it will revive the city of 80,000 people the way the opening of the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum helped transform the Basque city of Bilbao from a rusty industrial backwater into a cultural capital over a decade ago.

Most famous for designing Brazil's ultramodern capital city of Brasilia, Niemeyer has designed more than 600 projects around the world and created some of the nation's most distinctive buildings.

His works include a suite of the government building in the national capital city Brasilia and the headquarters for the United Nations in New York.

Niemeyer's design for the city of Belo Horizonte included 14 buildings, one of which is a massive structure housing the new seat of government.

His numerous awards include the Pritzker, likened to being a Nobel prize for the world of architecture, which he won in 1988.

Despite recurring illness over the past year, the centenarian remains at work, and still shows his flair for eye-catching design. His dramatic reinvention of the capital city of Minas Gerais was unveiled earlier this year.

The Rio native, born here in 1907, once famously said that the stylized swoops in his buildings were inspired by the curves of "the Brazilian woman."

© 2010 AFP

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