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Paulo Mendes de Rocha

Paulo Mendes da Rocha

Brazil (1928)
Headshot of designer.

Born in Brazil in 1928, Mendes da Rocha began his career in Sao Paulo in the 1950s as a member of the "Paulist brutalist" avant garde. He received a degree in architecture in 1954, opened his office in 1955 and soon thereafter created an early masterpiece, the Athletic Club of Sao Paulo (1957). Civic landmarks, museums, schools, hotels, private houses and apartment buildings followed and Mendes da Rocha took his place in the pantheon of Brazilian architects, second only perhaps to Oscar Neimeyer, designer of the capital city of Brasilia.

Mendes da Rocha has maintained a private practice, taught at the University of Sao Paulo and acted as President of the Brazilian Institute for Architects. He has received many awards, including the Mies van der Rohe prize for Latin American Architecture (2000) that first won for him international recognition. The award paid tribute to the architect's respectful renovation of the Pinacoteca do Estado, Sao Paulo's oldest fine arts museum.

One of the most consistently daring of 20th-century architects, Mendes da Rocha has worked notably in the public realm, creating concrete and steel forms of immense power and grace. For the Brazilian pavilion at Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan, he balanced a building on a single point of terrain with audacious elegance. The next year, he placed as a finalist in competition for design of the Centre George Pompidou, Paris. Among his widely known built works is the Museum of Contemporary Art (1975) at the University of Sao Paulo, the Forma Furniture showroom (1987) in Sao Paulo and the Brazilian Sculpture Museum (1987-1992). Recent projects include a master plan for Vigo University in Galicia, Spain, and the Boulevard des Sports in Paris, a complex intended to receive the 2008 Olympic Games.

In the imaginative modernist spirit that marks his buildings, Mendes da Rocha designed the sculptural Paulistano Armchair (1957) to be part of the living rooms of the Athletic Club of Sao Paulo. Made by bending a single steel bar and attaching a leather seat and back, the elegant sling chair pushes the limits of structural form, yet remains supremely comfortable and functional.

In 2006, Mendes da Rocha received architecture's highest honor as the Pritzker jury applauded his "deep understanding of the poetics of space" and an "architecture of profound social engagement". Jury Chairman Lord Palumbo added, "Mendes da Rocha brings the joyful lilt of Brazil to his work...never afraid of innovation or taking risks...indeed, a worthy choice."

Paulo Mendes da Rocha

Paulistano Outdoor Armchair
Paulistano Armchair in Leather
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