December 15, 2007 / 10:32 PM / 11 years ago

Brazilian architect Niemeyer celebrates 100 years

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday with family, friends and well-wishers in the House of the Canoas in Rio de Janeiro, one of his many creations.

Russia's ambassador in Brazil Vladimir Tyurdenev (L) puts the friendship medal decoration on Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer at his office in Rio de Janeiro December 14, 2007. Renowed Brazilian architect Niemeyer, who won the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 1998, celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday, December 15. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos

“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.

“One has to have firm convictions to put up with this struggle that life represents for mankind. Life is not just, and the thing that justifies our time is solidarity,” said the lifelong communist, who lived in exile in Paris during Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship.

The party 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.

He sat out on the patio with his daughter Ana Maria and his wife Vera Lucia Cabreira, whom he married last year, at his side.

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 honoured by other countries including France and Russia.

The winner of the 1988 Pritzker Prize, architecture’s most prestigious award, he is known for his futuristic designs.

His most famous works include government buildings in the capital city Brasilia, and the headquarters of the French Communist Party in Paris. He also helped design the U.N. building in New York.

He continues to work from his office in Rio de Janeiro, the city in which he was born.

One of his recent projects is a cultural centre in Aviles, his first work in Spain. He also plans to take charge of the renovation of the Palacio do Planalto, the presidential palace in Brasilia.

Reporting by Maria Pia Palermo; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Xavier Briand

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