Paulo Mendes da Rocha, described as ‘The Brazilian brutalist’, has won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ prestigious gold medal for 2017 for his contribution to architecture. “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,” says The Guardian.
The Royal Institute of British Architects is a professional body for architects primarily in the United Kingdom, but also internationally. The RIBA Gold Medal for is awarded annually on behalf of the British monarch and recognizes individuals or groups for their substantial contribution to international architecture. It is given for a distinguished body of work rather than for one building, and is therefore not awarded for merely being currently fashionable. Previous winners included Zaha Hadid, Álvaro Siza Vieira, Frei Otto, John Murray Easton and others.
Mendes da Rocha has been working almost exclusively in Brazil ever since he graduated from the Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie College of Architecture. Many of his buildings are concrete structures, which allowed for faster and cheaper production. Numerous buildings in São Paulo were designed by this legendary architect, who is widely credited as enhancing and revitalizing the city.
“Unlike many people who are afraid of poverty,” he wrote in 2003, “I have always been attracted to it, to simple things, without knowing why. Not hardship, but the humility of simple things. I think everything superfluous is irritating. Everything that is not necessary becomes grotesque, especially in our time.”