Paulo Mendes da Rocha, an open thought

by Web Staff

Compasses Magazine

Paulo Mendes da Rocha was born in 1928 in Victória, Brazil, and in the 1950s he began his career in São Paulo, the city – his city – where he would remain for the rest of his life

Mendes da Rocha, one of the main exponents of the Paulista School and collaborator of Vilanova Ortigas, left us not only some of the most important works of the twentieth century, but above all a new way of thinking about architecture, which is connected first to human life, the need for hope and the possibility of imagining a city for all.

The gymnasium of the Clube Athletico Paulistano in 1957, the Brazil Pavilion in 1970, the Serra Dourada stadium in Goiânia in 1973, the MuBE (Brazilian Museum of Sculpture) in São Paulo in 1986-95, the Pinacoteca do Estado in São Paulo in 1993, the Poupatempo Itaquera in 1999, the SESC 24 de Maio in São Paulo in 2017, are just some of the works of Paulo Mendes da Rocha that are enriched by his many unrealized projects.

These architectural developments are the result of a constant investigation into the relationship between nature and artifice that is expressed from the small scale to the large, always in search of relationships and possible comparisons, between the extremes of structural and technical experimentation and the radicalisation of lines discernible in clear and open spaces. All these works, in their extreme complexity, reveal a simple architecture, a thoughtful architecture, a political architecture.

The military dictatorship and the geographical location of his works – most of them in the state of São Paulo – have been the main factors behind the delay of his success and recognition on the international stage. Despite this, Paulo Mendes da Rocha won numerous prestigious awards, the Pritzker in 2006, the Golden Lion at the 15th Venice Biennale in 2016, the Imperial Prize of Japan in the same year, the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2017, and the Gold Medal of the International Union of Architects that he was due to receive next June.

On the 23rd of May 2021, an excellent contemporary architect, but first and foremost a great man passed away. A master that has given us a timeless architecture.

Photo credits:

© André Scarpa

© Nelson Kon, Sesc 24 de Maio / Paulo Mendes da Rocha + MMBB Arquitetos

© Nelson Kon, Museu Brasileiro de Escultura (MuBE), 1995

© Nelson Kon, Butantã House / Paulo Mendes da Rocha + João de Gennaro


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