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Notícias Nacionais / 25/05/2021


Architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha dies at 92

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Architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha dies at 92

Espírito Santo architect, based in São Paulo, treated lung cancer

The architect Espírito Santo Paulo Mendes da Rocha died on Sunday, 23, at the age of 92. He was treating lung cancer and was admitted to a São Paulo hospital. Since the death of Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), he was the most renowned Brazilian architect. And, undoubtedly, the most awarded of all, having received awards such as the Pritzker Prize, the main distinction of world architecture, in 2006, and the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale of Architecture, in 2016.

Itaú Cultural regrets the architect's death. Much of his legacy can be seen on Itaú Cultural's website and digital channels. “The lucidity and consistency of Paulo's ideas will be lacking, especially in such dark times. Even in the simplest projects, his living architecture was based on building more human cities. These qualities followed him until the last second ”, says Eduardo Saron, director of Itaú Cultural. “In the project he did with us in September 2018, for the Occupation in his honor, my interest in showing the works that were not done to a group of architecture students caught my attention, revealing in his face the beauty of hearing and share knowledge."

The Occupation was opened a month before he turned 90. In the show, the architect's projects were gathered and never left the paper nor exhibited in Brazil, considered as more radical and experimental works. To accompany and make the content of this Occupation more perennial, ample material was produced for the exhibition's hotsite (, with texts and testimonies about his work.

For architect and urban planner Lucio Gomes Machado, a professor at the University of São Paulo, Rocha was "the most important Brazilian architect today, whether due to the work as a whole or to the enormous contingent of disciples". "His works by him are intended for a wide range of programs and scales of intervention and present solutions that unify them around principles evident throughout his career", completes Machado. "At first glance, reinforced concrete would be its main characteristic, but it is clear that a simple material could not explain his work. Geometric shapes could link him to the brutalism that some specify as 'paulista' - many put him as the main but a closer examination allows the recognition of constructive details of exquisite simplicity, associated with an architecture elaborated with the perfect synthesis of a set of formal and symbolic intentions and expressed with a clear parsimony of constructive elements. and is the guiding thread for the solution of the program and its implementation on the site.

Born in Vitória, Espírito Santo, in 1928, Paulo Mendes da Rocha graduated in Architecture and Urbanism Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, in São Paulo, in 1954. this time, he became close to colleagues like Jorge Wilheim (1928-2014 ) and Carlos Millan (1927-1964) and together they started to think - and, later, produce - modern São Paulo architecture. "Paulo Mendes da Rocha belonged to the first generation of architects trained in architecture schools who became independent engineering schools in São Paulo", contextualizes Machado. "Teaching at Mackenzie, he graduated in 1954, was then guided by architecture linked to Beaux-Arts, reviewed by the Philadelphia School filter, his mentor, Cristiano Stockler das Neves had graduated decades earlier. Many of the students reacted to this orientation and started to study modern architecture and to practice it inside and outside the school, extending to the relevant role that modern architecture acquired at that time in the context of Brazilian culture. "

It was influenced by the proposals of João Batista Vilanova Vilanova Artigas (1915-1985) that Rocha started to conceive his first works, such as the gymnasium of Clube Atlhetico Paulistano. Rocha, then, becomes a representative of the so-called Escola Paulista, that is, he starts to use apparent reinforced concrete, rational structures and wide open spaces. The Paulistano project was awarded at the Bienal de São Paulo - and this brought notoriety to the then young architect. He became a professor at the University of São Paulo in 1961, as an assistant to Artigas. Years later, during the military regime, he ended up being compulsorily removed by the dictatorship. Machado points out that the academic work of Paulo Mendes da Rocha was "fruitful", contributing to the "renewal of project teaching" and to the "formation, in a decisive way, of successive generations of architects based on his work and Artigas". "Unfortunately, the military government removed him teaching, which would only be retaken with the restoration of democracy ", he comments.

And it is after the redemocratization that the architect started to develop his most important public works. It was his clipboard that the Pinacoteca do Estado, in São Paulo, for example, assumed the configuration that would consolidate it as one of the most important art museums in the country. He also conceived the Brazilian Sculpture Museum (MuBE), in São Paulo, the renovation of the Fiesp Cultural Center, also in São Paulo, and the Chapel of São Pedro Apóstolo, attached to the Boa Vista Palace, in Campos do Jordão. But not all of his works are public unanimity. The reconfiguration of Praça do Patriarca, in São Paulo, as well as the coverage of the Prestes Maia Gallery, ended up being highly criticized when executed.

In the 2000s, Paulo Mendes da Rocha was hired for the intervention that provided a new program for Estação da Luz, São Paulo's historic heritage, with the creation of the contemporary Museum of the Portuguese Language. He also designed the new installations for the National Coach Museum, in Lisbon. Rocha was recognized in 2001 with the Mies Van Der Rohe award, considered the most important in European architecture. Five years later, he won the Pritzker, an American award recognized as "the Nobel Prize for Architecture" - among Brazilians, only he and Oscar Niemeyer (in 1988) took the prize. He also won the Golden Lion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016, the Imperial Japan Prize, also in 2016, and the gold medal the British Institute of Architects (2017).

"Paulo Mendes da Rocha was a poet of form, straight line and precision, a complementary counterpoint to Oscar Niemeyer of curves and informality", analyzes architect and urban planner Henrique de Carvalho, researcher at the University of São Paulo, blogger at Portal Estadão and owner of Ateliê Tanta. "Today, unfortunately, we lost the architect of floating concrete. It is life reminding us that the geniuses of sensitivity also leave. Paulo Mendes made his buildings, city. We must be grateful for his work, his effort, his generosity and for his architecture also generous, which will remain an example of a better, more open, fairer world, without barriers to look at. "

Professor at Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, the architect and urban planner Valter Caldana defines Rocha as a "master of the masters". "What defines a master? Undoubtedly, his technical capacity, his profound knowledge, his recognized competence, his creative energy", he comments. "But what makes him a master of masters? Furthermore, without a doubt, his sensitivity in the perception of the world around him, his ability to build clear criteria to understand him, his profound wisdom and, above all, his generosity towards the other. His exemplary wisdom, his profound knowledge, his broad culture, his humanism and his generosity. "

"Finally, to be recognized as being able to express the synthesis of his time, in a light way, of masterful proportions, unparalleled, everyone recognizes himself", he continues. "In the case of Brazilian architecture, this master of the masters is called Paulo Archias Mendes da Rocha, of whom I have the honor and pleasure of being a disciple."

In 2020, Paulo Mendes da Rocha chose to donate his collection to the Casa de Arquitectura, museum and exhibition center of Matosinhos, in the metropolitan region of Porto, in Portugal. The decision divided opinions, among critics of the attitude, affirming the need for Brazil to keep a collection like his, and those who supported it. "This decision was taken two years ago, well before, therefore, the current crisis. I never looked for anyone, it was [executive director Nuno] Sampaio who made me the proposal to house the collection at the Casa de Arquitectura and invited Catherine Otondo to do the inventory of the work ", he told Estadão, at the time. The collection had almost 9 thousand pieces, including models, photographs and original drawings. On Facebook, Pedro Mendes da Rocha, son of the architect, published a tribute after his father's death on Sunday, 23: "After so much designing buildings in concrete and steel, my father went on to design galaxies with the stars!".

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