By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Legendary modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed many of the most prominent government buildings in Brasília and the UN Headquarters in New York City – has died in a Rio hospital just days before marking his 105th birthday, from complications after being hospitalized for a respiratory infection in November. President Dilma Rousseff has extended her deepest sympathies to Niemeyer’s family.
Brazilian news outlets have reported that Niemeyer’s body will be flown to Brasília on Thursday morning to lie in state in the Presidential Palace, the Planalto, in memory of the architectural legacy he bestowed on Brazil and many other countries, including the U.S. and Spain.
His body will then be returned to Rio’s Palácio da Cidade in Botafogo for a private ceremony with friends and family, before being opened to the public on Friday. His funeral is expected to take place on Friday afternoon, also in Botafogo.
Niemeyer rose to international fame in the 1960s as the new futuristic capital city was unveiled to the nation. The hallmark architectural swoops he used in his designs were, by his own admission, inspired by the “free-flowing sensual curves” of Brazilian women.
An ardent communist and atheist, he fled Brazil during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s, and continued to build on his career in France. His innovative use of reinforced concrete and rejection of conventional angled designs earned him both admirers and critics.
Some of his most prominent works in Brazil include top government palaces and buildings and the hyperboloid Cathedral of Brasília, the spaceship-like Contemporary Art Museum in Niterói and the Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba with its eye-shaped gallery that emerges from water.
Niemeyer was widowed at 2004 at the age of 93 after 76 years of marriage, but remarried in 2006 just before turning 99 years old. He outlived his own daughter, Anna Maria Niemeyer, who died in June this year at the age of 82. He had been in hospital since November 2nd, and had previously been hospitalized many times in recent years for a range of conditions, some of which required surgery.
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