Paulo Mendes da Rocha Pritzker Prize
Five Decades of Work
One of his notable early works is the Guaimbê apartment building (1964). Just 23-feet (7 meters) wide, the structure is supported by reinforced concrete walls on the two long sides. The surface receiving the most intense solar radiation is protected by a specially designed sunscreen. Openings on the west facade, with parallel concrete slats, unify the space and the rhythm of the interior.
In 1960, Mendes da Rocha designed his own home in São Paulo. It is embedded in a small hill surrounded by gardens. One of his objectives was to maximize the use of prefabricated and mass-produced reinforced concrete components.
Another example of his work at the residential scale is a modest house he designed in 1995 for Mario Masetti in Cabreuva, a small town northwest of São Paulo. The geometrical play of concrete forms offers a sequence of discovery, Mendes da Rocha says. "This house is not a model, but a multifaceted event in the landscape. It is a suite of little surprises." Inside, a curved stone wall contrasts with the linear concrete walls.
At the urban scale, he revitalized Patriarch Plaza (1992) in the heart of São Paulo, adding an enormous steel canopy that appears to float over the square. At the same time, he restructured the public space, reorganizing vehicular traffic and restoring the square's original paving. The suspended canopy forms a portal for the square while framing views in the opposite direction.
The design for the Serra Dourada Stadium, built in Goiânia in 1973, is different from most sports arenas in that it is open to the city. The roof overhangs 65 feet (20 meters) on each side, partially covering the bleachers and support services. Symmetrically placed at either end of the stadium are the enclosed galleries for offices and restaurants.
An earlier, smaller sports venue is the Paulistano Athletic Club (1958), built in São Paulo for a capacity of 2000 spectators. The structure is reinforced concrete with steel cables suspending a metal roof. The arena is in the center of a long rectangular platform that serves as an esplanade and accommodates banquet rooms and a garden.
Life Dedicated to Architecture
In a written citation, the Pritzker jury commended Mendes da Rocha for his "deep understanding of the poetics of space." They said: "he reminds us that architecture is foremost a human endeavor inspired by nature's omnipresence. The vast territory of his country has given this architect a rich lineage to harness and reconcile nature and architecture as congruent forces."
Juror Carlos Jimenez adds: "Paulo Mendes da Rocha builds with exceptional economy to achieve an architecture of profound social engagement, an architecture that transcends the limits of construction to dazzle with poetic rigor and imagination. There is no vacillation in Mendes da Rocha's work. One feels in it the steady determination of a modern master whose confidence springs from a keen reading of the present as well as respect for the past. He is an architect for whom optimism is synonymous with the act of construction. For it is here that architecture fulfills its most urgent material, social, and spiritual aspirations."
Mendes da Rocha was born in 1928 in Vitoria, Brazil, grew up in São Paulo, and there studied architecture at Mackenzie Presbyterian University. With his distinctive architectonic language, he began earning public recognition almost immediately after graduating.
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