Pritzker prize goes to Brazil's Mendes da Rocha

April 01, 2006 |

The Pritzker Architectural Prize for 2006 has been awarded to Paulo Mendes da Rocha, a Brazilian whose six-decades-long career includes a private practice, a teaching position at the University of São Paulo, and a stint as president of the Brazilian Institute of Architects. He will receive his award and $100,000 on May 30 at a ceremony at the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.

"Mendes da Rocha has shown a deep understanding of space and scale through the great variety of buildings he has designed, from private residences, housing complexes, a church, museums, sports stadia, and urban plans for public space," said Thomas J. Pritzker, president of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prize. "While few of his buildings were realized outside of Brazil, the lessons to be learned from his work, both as a practicing architect and a teacher, are universal."

The 78-year-old Mendes da Rocha began his career in the late '50s as part of São Paulo's avant-garde movement known as Paulist brutalist architecture. Throughout the ensuing decades he earned a reputation as one of Brazil's most outstanding architects. He gained international prominence in 2000 when he won the Mies van der Rohe Prize for Latin American Architecture.

Paulo Mendes da Rocha completed his architecture studies at São Paulo’s University of Mackenzie in 1954, and soon after won his first national design competition. He taught at the University of  São Paulo in the ’60s before the country’s military dictatorship forced him to resign in 1969. He taught again from 1980-1999. In addition to his architectural and urban works, he is also known for having designed the “Paulistano” chair.

Mendes da Rocha's most notable projects include the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture , the renovation of Pinacoteca do Estado—São Paulo's oldest fine-arts museum—and São Paulo's Forma Furniture showroom, which is considered an iconic example of his architectural philosophy. He is developing a master plan for the University of Vigo's Technological City in Galicia, Spain.

The Pritzker Architectural Prize, one of architecture's most prestigious awards, was established by the Hyatt Foundation in 1979 to honor a living architect whose built work provides consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture. Last year's winner was the American Thom Mayne.

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