Mendes da Rocha, Paulo


Mendes da Rocha, Paulo
▪ 2007

      On May 30, 2006, in Istanbul, 77-year-old Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha accepted the 2006 Pritzker Architecture Prize. In doing so he became the second Brazilian architect (after Oscar Niemeyer) to be awarded the annual prize. The jurors of the Pritzker committee cited him for bringing the “joyful lilt of Brazil” to his work and for his “deep understanding of the poetics of space.” He was a leader—together with Niemeyer, João Vilanova Artigas, and Affonso Eduardo Reidy—in bringing a modernist sensibility to Brazilian architecture.

      Paulo Archias Mendes da Rocha was born on Oct. 25, 1928, in Vitória, the capital of the state of Espírito Santo, Braz. He moved to São Paulo as a child with his mother, the daughter of Italian immigrants, and his father, a Brazilian engineer. After completing a degree in architecture (1954) at Mackenzie University in São Paulo, Mendes da Rocha began a career in that city. From the start he was associated with the architectural cutting edge, and in 1958 his designs for the Club Atletico Paulistano, the first of his many prizewinning structures, gave evidence of his daring and original vision. He won the competition for the Jockey Club in Goiâna in 1963 and in 1969 was selected (with Flavio Motta, Julio Katinsky, and Ruy Ohtake) to build the Brazilian Pavilion for Expo 1970 in Osaka. It was his first international building, and many others followed, including in 2004 a project in Spain to enlarge and reorganize the campus of the University of Vigo.

      Nevertheless, he continued to construct most of his work in his adopted city. He counted houses, high-rise apartment buildings, stadiums, schools, social clubs, offices, clinics, bus terminals, libraries, and a reservoir among his structures. He also designed furniture (such as the Paulistano chair [1957]), opera sets (for Suor Angelica [1990] and The 500-Year Opera [1992]), and architectural exhibitions (1997 and 1998). One of his most significant designs was that for São Paulo's Brazilian Museum of Sculpture. As he expanded his portfolio, Mendes da Rocha developed his own distinctive vocabulary. Employing a style that became known as Paulist Brutalism, he used great expanses of concrete in his buildings, managing to create a sense of monumentality without massiveness, modernism without alienation.

      In fact, Mendes da Rocha was noted by one writer as having shown, with his serious engagement in urban planning and by his loyalty to São Paulo, that “the megalopolis does not have to be entirely dystopian.”

Kathleen Kuiper

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▪ Brazilian architect
in full  Paulo Archias Mendes da Rocha 
born Oct. 25, 1928, Vitória, Espírito Santo, Braz.

      Brazilian architect known for bringing a modernist sensibility to the architecture of his native country. He was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2006, becoming the second Brazilian (after Oscar Niemeyer (Niemeyer, Oscar)) to receive the honour.

      Mendes da Rocha moved to São Paulo as a child with his mother, the daughter of Italian immigrants, and his father, a Brazilian engineer. After completing a degree in architecture (1954) at Mackenzie University in São Paulo, Mendes da Rocha began a career in that city. From the start he was associated with the architectural cutting edge, and in 1958 his designs for the Club Athletico Paulistano, the first of his many prizewinning structures, gave evidence of his daring and original vision. He won the competition for the Jockey Club in Goiâna in 1963 and in 1969 was selected (with Flavio Motta, Julio Katinsky, and Ruy Ohtake) to build the Brazilian Pavilion for Expo 1970 in Ōsaka. It was his first international building, and many others followed, including in 2004 a project in Spain to enlarge and reorganize the campus of the University of Vigo.

      Nevertheless, Mendes da Rocha continued to construct most of his work in São Paulo. He counted houses, high-rise apartment buildings, stadiums, schools, social clubs, offices, clinics, bus terminals, libraries, and a reservoir among his structures. He also designed furniture (such as the Paulistano chair [1957]), opera sets (for Suor Angelica [1990] and The 500-Year Opera [1992]), and architectural exhibitions (1997 and 1998). One of his most significant designs was for São Paulo's Brazilian Museum of Sculpture. As he expanded his portfolio, Mendes da Rocha developed his own distinctive vocabulary. Employing a style that became known as Paulist Brutalism, he used great expanses of concrete in his buildings, managing to create a sense of monumentality without massiveness, modernism without alienation.

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Universalium. 2010.

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