paulo mendes da rocha discusses the building of human habitats in nature paulo mendes da rocha discusses the building of human habitats in nature
feb 01, 2017

paulo mendes da rocha discusses the building of human habitats in nature

 

in september 2016, it was announced that brazilian architect paulo mendes da rocha would receive RIBA’s 2017 royal gold medal. widely credited for transforming his home city of são paulo, mendes da rocha is recognized for a great number of important cultural buildings built in his particular brutalist style. the award — the UK’s highest honor for architecture — follows paulo mendes da rocha’s acceptance of the mies van der rohe prize in 2000, the pritzker prize in 2006, the venice biennale’s golden lion for lifetime achievement in 2016, and the praemium imperiale international arts award in the same year.

 

designboom attended the royal gold medal lecture at RIBA’s london headquarters, where the architect discussed some of his most important projects, and the underlying theme of building human habitats in nature.

paulo mendes da rocha riba 2017
patriarch plaza, são paulo (2002)
image © nelson kon, courtesy of RIBA / portrait of paulo mendes da rocha © designboom

 

 

‘nature is hell,’ said mendes da rocha opening his lecture, ‘it is equivalent to an inferno’. although the rhetoric is strong, the brazilian architect correctly asserts that humans could not survive without some form of architectural infrastructure. ‘scenarios where humans can live in nature is the greatest discussion for architects’, he continued. from scorching deserts to the arctic tundra, in its most natural state the world is truly inhospitable for the human race. growing up in post-colonial brazil, mendes da rocha has spent a lifetime building beautiful habitats fit for human occupation.

paulo mendes da rocha riba 2017
casa no butantã, são paulo (1964)
image © annette spiro, courtesy of RIBA

 

 

observing that ‘architecture cannot encompass all humanitarian disciples’, mendes da rocha said that rather than having an infinite knowledge base, architects can bring these important issues to light through their work. brazil’s most celebrated living architect began by presenting examples of his city-scale masterplans, in both his home town and further afield in uruguay. ‘the english contributed to the building of brazil and our culture,’ said mendes da rocha, explaining that it was british ships that originally brought the portugese to brazil.

paulo mendes da rocha riba 2017
the brazilian sculpture museum in são paulo (1988)
image © nelson kon, courtesy of RIBA

 

 

completed in 1988, the brazilian sculpture museum in são paulo is one of the architect’s most recognized works. however, the building is so unobtrusive you may not notice it at first glance. as its architect explains, the concept behind the design was to ‘not have a building at all’. sitting low on the landscape, a long linear form not only hosts a diverse collection of sculpture, but also preserves a vital area of public green space for the city. the underground nature of the design is subtle, barely registering on its surroundings.

paulo mendes da rocha riba 2017
the brazilian sculpture museum in são paulo (1988)
image © nelson kon, courtesy of RIBA

 

 

more recently, in 2015, mendes da rocha completed lisbon’s new national coach museum. however, the architect took some convincing to undertake such a large project outside his home city. ‘when approached for this project, I said that I will only do it if we have a collaboration with a local partner, as the museum is a very popular tourist and local attraction,’ he explained to the audience. describing it as a fantastic opportunity to design around beautiful objects, the architect used simple white interior surfaces as a neutral backdrop to the coaches on display. ‘the museum has no doors and relates to all of its surroundings,’ he continues — a bona fide habitat for humans.

paulo mendes da rocha riba 2017
the national coach museum in lisbon (2015)
image © armenio teixeira, courtesy of RIBA

 

 

after so many years of work, it is a great joy to receive this recognition from the royal institute of british architects for the contribution my lifetime of work and experiments have given to the progress of architecture and society,’ said mendes da rocha. ‘I would like to send my warmest wishes to all those who share my passion, in particular british architects, and share this moment with all the architects and engineers that have collaborated on my projects.’

paulo mendes da rocha riba 2017
mendes da rocha places a particular emphasis on sketching by hand
image © designboom

 

 

the royal gold medal was established by the royal institute of british architects in 1848 and is still awarded annually. the honor is granted for a body of work, rather than for one particular project, with previous winners including le corbusier in 1953, frank gehry in 2000, toyo ito in 2006, and peter zumthor in 2013. last year, the prize was presented to zaha hadid, who was first female architect to receive the award in her own right. see designboom’s coverage of paulo mendes da rocha’s work here, including an in-depth interview with the architect.

paulo mendes da rocha riba 2017
vintage photographs documenting the architect’s work
image © designboom

paulo-mendes-da-rocha-RIBA-designboom-818
paulo mendes da rocha awarded the RIBA gold medal 2017
image © morley von sternberg, courtesy of RIBA

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.

    PRODUCT LIBRARY

    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    architecture news