Paulo Mendes da Rocha, giant of the Brazilian architecture world dies at 92

Legendary Brazilian architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, has died at the age of 92. Mr Mendes da Rocha was awarded Pritzker Prize, the profession’s highest honour in 2006, for his contribution to the development of architecture in his home country of Brazil.

Regarded as one of the biggest names in the world of architecture, the architect was battling lung cancer and passed away on Sunday, May 23, 2021. In the seven decades of his work, the Brazilian architect mastered building with concrete structures across several typologies and scale. Often referred to as ‘Brazilian Brutalist,’ he developed this construction technique to keep his building forms simple and using the simplest of materials.

UIA – International Union of Architects
UIA – International Union of Architects
Rodrigo Argenton 
Gabriel de Andrade Fernandes 

Mendes da Rocha used to refer his work as, "Architecture is a human endeavour inspired by  Nature all around us, which we must transform; fuse science, art and technology into a sublime statement of human dignity." His work could be described as ‘timeless’ which also embodies strong elements of personal and social integrity.

Mr Mendes da Rocha came to limelight with his first building commission, when he was awarded first prize to design Gymnasium in the Paulistano Athletics Club, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He would go on to design several prominent buildings throughout Brazil including Saint Peter Chapel (1987), the MuBE | Museu Brasileiro de Escultura (1988), Patriach Plaza (1992-2002), the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo (1993) and the FIESP Centro Cultural (1997).

Born in 1928 in Vitória, Brazil, Mendes da Rocha attended the Universidade Presbiteriana MackenzieCollege of Architecture, graduating in 1954. He was actively teaching at the Architecture College of University of São Paulo till 1998. Although highly influential in Brazil, Mendes da Rocha hardly worked outside his home country, where two of the notable buildings by him are  Brazil's Pavilion at Expo '70 and National Coaches Museum (2015).

UIA – International Union of Architects
UIA – International Union of Architects
UIA – International Union of Architects

Mr Mendes da Rocha was honoured with the Mies van der Rohe Prize (2000), the Pritzker Prize (2006), and the Venice Biennale Golden Lion for lifetime achievement (2016). In 2017 he was awarded with RIBA Gold Medal and recently in 2021 he was awarded prestigious 2021 Gold Medal by UIA – International Union of Architects. The organisers described his work as, "whose timeless work has marked the field of architecture.” The jury appreciated Mendes da Rocha’s unique status as a daring iconoclast whose work has taken architecture to new heights of technical virtuosity. His work also embodies strong elements of personal and social integrity, reflected in his ability to transcend limits while retaining a fundamental sense of place that is grounded organically in his native land and culture. Paulo Mendes da Rocha's UIA Gold Medal exemplifies a lifetime of achievement, spanning seven decades that emphasised architecture as a public act.