In Memoriam: Paolo Portoghesi


Today, we bid farewell to Paolo Portoghesi, a prominent Italian architect, theorist, historian, and esteemed professor of architecture at the Sapienza University of Rome. Paolo Portoghesi, a remarkable figure in the architectural world, passed away on May 30, 2023, at the age of 92. His lifelong dedication to the field of architecture, his invaluable contributions as an academic, and his profound influence on architectural theory and practice have left an indelible mark on the profession.


Born in Rome in 1931, Paolo Portoghesi grew up in the shadow of the Pantheon and was captivated by the beauty of architecture from a young age. He embarked on his architectural journey at the Faculty of Architecture at the Sapienza University of Rome in 1950, where he immersed himself in the study of the built environment. Portoghesi died at his home in Calcata, a picturesque, cliffside city north of Rome.

farewell to paolo portoghesi: italian architect dies aged 92Paolo Portoghesi portrait | header image La Chiesa della Sacra Famiglia in Salerno (1971) © Cédric Dasesson



architect, historian, and educator


Portoghesi’s passion for architectural history led him to embark on an illustrious career as an educator. In 1961, he commenced teaching the history of criticism at the Sapienza University of Rome, where he shared his knowledge and inspired countless students. In 1964, Portoghesi co-founded an architectural practice in Rome alongside architect-engineer Vittorio Gigliotti, forging a path that would further solidify his reputation as an influential architect.


While Portoghesi specialized in the study of Classical architecture, with a particular focus on Baroque architecture and the works of Borromini and Michelangelo, his interests extended beyond the confines of the past. Alongside his colleague Bruno Zevi, he championed a more organic form of modernism, drawing inspiration from the works of Victor Horta and Frank Lloyd Wright. In Italy, he embraced neorealism and the Liberty style, imbuing his own architectural creations with a harmonious blend of tradition and innovation.

farewell to paolo portoghesi: italian architect dies aged 92
Mosque and Islamic Cultural Center in Rome (1984-95) | image via visitlazio



Portoghesi’s impact extended far beyond his teaching and practice. From 1979 to 1992, he served as the president of the architectural section of the Venice Biennale, where he curated exhibitions and fostered dialogue on the evolution of architectural thought. Additionally, he assumed the role of Editor-in-chief of the esteemed journal ‘Controspazio’ from 1969 to 1983, further contributing to architectural discourse and sharing his insights with a broader audience. His tenure as the dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the Politecnico di Milano university from 1968 to 1978 showcased his leadership and dedication to shaping the future of architectural education.

paolo portoghesi diesLa Chiesa della Sacra Famiglia in Salerno (1971) | image © Cédric Dasesson



the postmodern pioneer


In 1980, at the Venice Biennale, Portoghesi curated an exhibition titled “The Present of the Past” dedicated to postmodern architecture. Following its display in Paris and San Francisco, the exhibition effectively showcased a synthesis of the various trends within postmodern architecture at that time. With a daily attendance of over 2000 visitors, the exhibition was a public success, although it generated heated debates among specialists. Nevertheless, it sparked a multitude of publications on the subject, marking the emergence of a comprehensive theoretical groundwork for postmodern architecture.

farewell to paolo portoghesi: italian architect dies aged 92
Il Teatro Politeama, Catanzaro (2002) © Nicholas Gemini



A Visionary and Advocate for Nature


Throughout his illustrious career, Paolo Portoghesi consistently demonstrated a profound appreciation for nature and its integration within the built environment. His book, ‘Nature and Architecture,’ published in 2000, exemplifies his commitment to exploring the intrinsic relationship between the natural world and architectural design. His architectural projects reflect a deep understanding of the vital connection between the human experience and the surrounding environment, a testament to his holistic approach to design.

farewell to paolo portoghesi: italian architect dies aged 92
Casa Papanice, Roma (1968)



With the passing of Paolo Portoghesi, the architectural community mourns the loss of a visionary and a brilliant mind. His unwavering commitment to the study of architectural history, his innovative approach to design, and his influential role as an educator have left an indelible legacy. Paolo Portoghesi’s profound impact on the field of architecture will continue to inspire future generations of architects and scholars to push the boundaries of creativity and seek harmony between tradition and progress. Today, as we bid farewell to this remarkable individual, we honor Paolo Portoghesi’s immeasurable contributions to architecture and his enduring legacy that will continue to shape the built environment for years to come.

farewell to paolo portoghesi: italian architect dies aged 92Stadtvilla, Berlin (1987) | image © Bauausstellung Berlin