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Paulo Mendes da Rocha
Paulo Mendes da Rocha
[Paulo Archias Mendes da Rocha]
* Vitória, Brazil [Brasil], 25 October 1928
+ São Paulo, Brazil [Brasil], 23 May 2021
nationality: brazilian
Paulo Mendes da Rocha was born in October 1928 in the city of Vitória, the harbor capital of Espírito Santo, son of the naval engineer Paulo Menezes Mendes da Rocha and Angelina Derenzi, daughter of an Italian family that had emigrated to Brazil. When his father assumed the coordination of the Naval and Harbor discipline at the Polytechnic School of the São Paulo University (USP) in 1940, the family moved to São Paulo. Paulo Mendes da Rocha graduated from the Mackenzie University Architecture School in 1954 and built a career planning houses, schools, apartment buildings, museums, several urban projects, stations and sport equipment, furniture and theatre sets.

Soon after his graduation, in 1957 he won a national competition for the construction of a gymnasium – the Clube Atlético Paulistano. This work brought him public recognition and won the principal award at the 6th Bienal of São Paulo, in 1961 – Grande Prêmio Presidência da República. In 1968, he won the national project competition for the Brazilian Pavilion at Osaka Expo 70 and travelled to follow the development of the construction in 1969.

Among several international honors, he has been awarded with the Mies Van der Rohe Foundation Prize for his Pinacoteca de São Paulo project. He was selected in 2000 to represent Brazil at the 7th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. He received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2006.

In Brazil, he was twice honored with the Ordem do Mérito Cultural, in 2004 and 2013. He also received twice the trophy from APCA “Associação Paulista de Críticos de Arte”, in 2012 and 2015.

In 2016, he was awarded with the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at Venice Architecture Biennale and with the Imperiale Praemium in honour of Prince Takamatsu in the category of architecture in Japan.

He joined the academic world in the sixties when invited to teach at the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo. He taught at the University of São Paulo from 1960 to 1969 and from 1980 till 1998; in 2010 he received the title of Professor Emeritus. He was President of the Brazilian Institute of Architects, São Paulo in 1972/1973 and 1986/1987.

Besides his architectural and urban projects, he has designed furniture: one example is the chair ‘Paulistano’, published in the magazine New Furniture, Neue Möbel, Meubles Nouveaux, Verlag Gerd Hatje, Stuttgart, 1958.

He has accepted several invitations from international universities:
  • 2001 Professor ad Honorem of the Facultad de Arquitectura, Universidad de la República del Uruguay
  • 2007 Doctor Honoris Causa, Universidade Presbeteriana Mackenzie, São Paulo
  • 2009 Doctor Honoris Causa, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina
  • 2010 Professor Emeritus, Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo da Universidade de São Paulo, USP
  • 2011 Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Architecture and Urbanism "Ion Mincu", Bucharest, Romania
  • 2012 Doctor Honoris Causa for distinction in the arts, science, culture, human rights, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina
  • 2015 Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Lisbon.
Royal Gold Medal  [ » read more ]
RIBA - Royal Institute of British Architects

RIBA President and chair of the selection committee Jane Duncan said:
“Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s work is highly unusual in comparison to the majority of the world’s most celebrated architects. He is an architect with an incredible international reputation, yet almost all his masterpieces are built exclusively in his home country. Revolutionary and transformative, Mendes da Rocha’s work typifies the architecture of 1950s Brazil – raw, and beautifully crafted concrete.
Paulo Mendes da Rocha is a world-class architect and a true living legend; I am very pleased to present him with the Royal Gold Medal, the world’s highest honour for architecture.”

Paulo Mendes da Rocha said:
“After so many years of work, it is a great joy to receive this recognition from the Royal Institute of British Architects for the contribution my lifetime of work and experiments have given to the progress of architecture and society. I would like to send my warmest wishes to all those who share my passion, in particular British architects, and share this moment with all the architects and engineers that have collaborated on my projects.”
Leone d'Oro alla Carriera
XV Mostra Internazionale d'Architettura di Venezia
Praemium Imperiale

Japan Art Association
Pritzker Architecture Prize
2008 - 2015
Museu Nacional dos Coches
Portugal » Lisbon [Lisboa]
1992 - 2002
Praça do Patriarca
Brazil [Brasil] » São Paulo
1996 - 1998
Centro Cultural FIESP
Brazil [Brasil] » São Paulo
1993 - 1998
Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo
Brazil [Brasil] » São Paulo
1986 - 1995
MuBE - Museu Brasileiro da Escultura
Brazil [Brasil] » São Paulo
1987 - 1989
Capela de São Pedro
Brazil [Brasil] » Campos do Jordão
1962 - 1975
Brazil [Brasil] » Goiânia
1973 - 1975
Brazil [Brasil] » Goiânia
1970 - 1974
Brazil [Brasil] » São Paulo
1972 - 1974
Brazil [Brasil] » São Paulo
1957 - 1968
Brazil [Brasil] » Florianopolis
1962 - 1966
Edificio Guaimbê
Brazil [Brasil] » São Paulo
1957 - 1961
Ginásio do Clube Atlético Paulistano  |  Ginásio Antônio Prado Júnior
Brazil [Brasil] » São Paulo
Paulo Mendes da Rocha, "Cappella di São Pedro/São Pedro Chapel", Casabella 693, ottobre/october 2001, pp. 20-29
Paulo Mendes da Rocha "Perspectivas da arquitetura brasileira: recomendações pra sua adeguaçâo aos trópicos", AA.VV., Arquitetura nos Trópicos, Fundaçâo Joaquim Nabuco, Massangana, Racife 1985
Paulo Mendes da Rocha, 1958-2013, AV Monografías Monographs 161, 2013AV Monografías/Monographs 161, 2013 [Paulo Mendes da Rocha. 1958-2013]
Daniele Pisani, Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Tutte le Opere, Electa Mondadori, Milano, 2013
Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Obra recente, Recent Work, 2GGuilherme Wisnik (ed.), 2G 45, I/2008 [Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Obra recente / Recent Work]
Guilherme Wisnik, "Architecture of the territory", in Guilherme Wisnik (ed.), 2G 45, I/2008 [Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Obra recente / Recent Work], pp. 4-17 (3-143)
"Biography", in Guilherme Wisnik (ed.), 2G 45, I/2008 [Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Obra recente / Recent Work], p. 132 (3-143)
Paulo Mendes da Rocha. 50 years, Rizzoli, New York 2007
review: Gonzalo Sotelo, "Mendes da Rocha, horizontes estructurales", Arquitectura Viva 116, septiembre-octubre/september-october 2007 [Ladrillo visto], "Arte/Cultura" p. 83
Rosa Artigas (ed.), Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Projectos 1999-2006, Cosac Naify, São Paulo 2007
review: Casabella 765, aprile/april 2008, "Biblioteca dell'architetto" p. 95
Federico De Ambrosis "Premio Pritzker al brutalismo paulista", Il giornale dell'architettura 40, maggio 2006, pp. 1, 8
Denise Chini Solot, Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Estrutura: o Êxito da Forma, Viana & Mosley, Brazil 2004
Hélio Piñon, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Romano Guerra Editora, São Paulo 2002

review: Casabella 708, febbraio/february 2003, p. 97
Annette Spiro, Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Bauten und Projekte, Verlag Niggli AG, Zürich 2002
Rosa Artigas (ed.), Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Cosac & Naify, São Paulo 2000
review: Casabella 693, ottobre/october 2001, "Libri e riviste" p. 82
Josep Maria Montaner, Maria Isabel Villac, Coletânea de obras do arquiteto Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Gili-Blau, Barcelona-Lisboa 1996
Josep Maria Montaner, Maria Isabel Villac, Mendes da Rocha. Introducciones / Introductions, Editorial Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 1996
Flavio Motta, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Arte - Sociedad en reflexión, V Bienal de La Habana, Cuba 1994
Sophia Silva Telles (ed.), Inventário de obra publicada de Paulo Mendes da Rocha. 1989-1991, Pontificia Universidade Católica de Campinas, Campinas 1992
  O Poeta das Linhas
Directed by
Augusto Custodio
Year of production
Paulo Mendes da Rocha
Architect's role
Guilherme Wisnik (ed.), 2G 45, I/2008 [Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Obra recente / Recent Work]
Guilherme Wisnik, "Interviews with Paulo Mendes da Rocha and his collaborators", in Guilherme Wisnik (ed.), 2G 45, I/2008 [Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Obra recente / Recent Work], pp. 133-143 (3-143)
Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Geografias Construídas, Constructed Geographies, Matosinhos, Casa da Arquitectura, Centro Portoguês de ArquitecturaPaulo Mendes da Rocha. Geografias Construídas / Constructed Geographies, Matosinhos (Portugal), Casa da Arquitectura – Centro Portoguês de Arquitectura / Portuguese Center of Architecture, 26 may 2023 / 25 february 2024

Spanning seven decades, the immense work of Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha (1928-2021), is for the first time unveiled it its amplitude, on the base of the archive he donated to Casa da Arquitectura. He made his debut in 1958 in São Paulo with the construction of the Paulistano Athletic Club Gymnasium, which marked a thrilling milestone for Brazilian modernism. From his earliest designs such as a circular concrete ring combined with slender steel cables to his latest works, and from private villas to large-scale schemes, the exhibition recasts in its complexity a contribution too often tagged with the simplistic label of brutalism.

Mendes da Rocha’s major works are inscribed within the changing, transgenerational network of partners and collaborators, among students, architects, artists, and engineers, with whom he operated from the 1960s to the 2010s. Embedded in Brazil’s urban culture, they are permeated by a constant concern for natural resources and the materials from Earth. His broad approach to the Americas and the planet at large, which crystallizes the interplay of culture and nature, reflects his imaginative engagement with the social and anthropogenic condition of a continent still deeply embedded in its colonial and postcolonial pasts. The exhibition reunites a geo- graphic consciousness at work at the scale of houses and apartment buildings set in dialogue with São Paulo’s topography and large volumes addressing Brazil’s majestic landscapes and longest inter and subtropical coastline in the world.

Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Geografias Construídas, Constructed Geographies, Matosinhos, Casa da Arquitectura, Centro Portoguês de ArquitecturaA rich selection of archival materials documents the architect’s design imagination and methods, from his stunning conceptual sketches to the precise drawing of construction details he deployed on large-size sheets. A creative space inside the exhibition combines site photographs and vintage views of buildings with the shades and movement of contemporary video promenades within and around them. The architect’s legendary delicate, small-scaled study maquettes in paper are set in dialogue with large models specially produced for the exhibition.

Deployed in the main gallery of Casa da Arquitectura, the installation conceived by Eduardo Souto de Moura and Nuno Graça Moura orchestrates an intense relationship between the archival materials displayed on a continuous table and the walls punctuated by large screens exposing the visitors to the buildings’ everyday lives. Step by step, the pathway unveils the expanded geographies of Mendes da Rocha’s work, from the most intimate confines of houses he designed and built throughout his life to his vast visions, extending from São Paulo to the American continent and the cosmos. Twelve major projects are featured from their genesis to their current state, with highlights such as the Paulistano Gymnasium and the architect’s early Butantã house to most recent masterpieces such as São Paulo’s Sesc 24 de Maio and Lisbon’s Museu dos Coches. Intertwined with these marking works, the most significant episodes traversing the architect’s life and practice vis-à-vis Brazil’s cultural reckoning with development and urbanization are narrated thanks to a wide range of videos.

The exhibition is accompanied by a set of original models from the collection of the architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha and eight new models produced on purpose for the show. In addition to these, a series of interpretive models are designed and produced by the students of The Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and Urban Design, part of the Delft University of Technology’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.

In addition to the models, the exhibition includes 10 original videos by Filipe De Ferrari and Ciro Miguel and the film created for the Brazilian pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Alexandre Brasil, André Luiz Prado, Bruno Santa Cecília, Carlos Alberto Maciel, Paula Zasnicoff and Henrique Penha.
Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Geografias Construídas, Constructed Geographies, Matosinhos, Casa da Arquitectura, Centro Portoguês de ArquitecturaPaulo: Para Além do Desenho — Conversando com Paulo Mendes da Rocha / Beyond Drawing — Talking with Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Matosinhos (Portugal), Casa da Arquitectura – Centro Portoguês de Arquitectura / Portuguese Center of Architecture, 26 may 2023 / 25 february 2024

"Scholars are those who read books: but thinkers, geniuses, the enlighteners of the world and the promoters of the human race are those who have read directly the book of the world."
Arthur Schopenauer

Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Geografias Construídas, Constructed Geographies, Matosinhos, Casa da Arquitectura, Centro Portoguês de ArquitecturaPaulo Mendes da Rocha is a figure who transcends architecture.

Humanist, singularly lucid and nonconformist with the direction of the world, his discourse conveys a message of hope that comes from his belief in the collective awareness of the need to ‘avoid disaster’.

An exhibition of his work requires the visitor to be made aware of his thoughts and his position regarding Life, Humanity and the Profession, which are the basis of the work he left us as an Architect.

In our opinion, it would not be appropriate to write another text on Paulo and his work. Instead, we chose to offer visitors a conversation with him, so that, in an intimate way, without filters or interpretations, they can listen to him talk about the most varied subjects, ex- pressing what he thought, what moved him and what he fought for. The aim is to share an experience that many of those who were able to have contact with him will never forget. For this purpose, we selected a number of excerpts from conversations and lectures given over the years, which the visitor can listen to freely in the various environments of the exhibition.

We hope that what comes out of this meeting may contribute to a better understanding of the thinking behind the works he carried out, the designs he proposed and the idea of the world he fought for.

Marta Moreira
Rui Furtado

At the Casa Gallery the exhibition consists of a video comprising 10 interviews and lectures by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, based on a script defined by the curators, Marta Moreira and Rui Furtado, available on five screens asynchronously and accompanied by and will be accompanied by a selection of 160 images displayed on tablets.
Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Tecnica e immaginazione, Milano, Italy, Triennale, 6 may / 31 august 2014
Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Bruxelles/Brussel, BOZAR, Centre for fine Arts, 12 october 2011 / 15 january 2012
Günter Richard Wett (ed., photo), Vilanova Artigas, Lina Bo Bardi, Paulo Mendes da Rocha
Innsbruck, 16 january/11 april 2009
Salzburg, Raum für Architektur im Künstlerhaus, 19 may/10 july 2009
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