Celebrated for his ‘raw, primal’ concrete structures, the architect adds RIBA honour to growing list of top architectural prizes
The Brazilian brutalist Paulo Mendes da Rocha, an architect known for his massive concrete forms and daring structural acrobatics, has won RIBA’s prestigious royal gold medal for 2017.
A figure far removed from the usual cast of international “starchitects”, the 87 year old has spent the past six decades building a body of work, primarily in his home country, that stands out for its force of expression and bold structural power, married with finely crafted detail.
“His work has a courage and clarity few can match,” said architect Neil Gillespie, who nominated Mendes da Rocha for the accolade. “His structures are daring and joyous, his use of concrete bold and innovative. There is a quality that renders it timeless.”
Mendes da Rocha’s buildings have an archaic, almost primal air, with huge fins of concrete possessing a raw, visceral roughness. He shot to prominence at the age of 30 with his design for the Paulistano Athletic Club in São Paulo, which consists of six concrete blades supporting a thin circular concrete roof supported by 12 slender cables. Built in 1958, it was a startling sight – a remarkable circus balancing act that pushed the limits of what was physically possible. […]