The board behind this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale announced Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha as the honoree for the Golden Lion, which recognizes lifetime achievement. This year’s director, Pritzker Prize-winning Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, made the recommendation, and praised da Rocha's designs for their timelessness, along with Venice Biennale board chair Paolo Baratta.

In 2006, Paulo Mendes da Rocha won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, architecture’s highest honor, at the age of 77. He is the second Brazilian to win this award, after Oscar Niemeyer in 1988, according to The New York Times. Six years earlier, in 2000, he was also awarded with the Mies van der Rohe Prize. He taught for several years at the Architecture College of the University of São Paulo, as well.

Practicing since the 1950s, his work is mainly in his home country of Brazil. Regarded as a pioneer in "Brazilian brutalism"—which was conceived in São Paulo, where he grew up—he and his counterparts within the Paulista School movement used concrete and steel to construct chunky and massive structures, rather than the smooth and curved figures their architectural predecessor Oscar Niemeyer brought about in Brazil. His first major project was the Paulistano Athetlics Club in São Paulo, which takes the form of immense, angular slabs of reinforced concrete that circumvents a circular, metal roof suspended by steel cables and can seat 2,000 spectators.

According to the Venice Architecture Biennale’s press release, the board considers him a “role model” for subsequent generations of architects, “as well as someone able to attract others to the cause of a better built environment.”

The award will be presented to da Rocha on Saturday, May 28, at Ca’ Giustinian, the headquarters of the Biennale, which will open that same day.

Below are some of da Rocha's best known works. To see more, go through ARCHITECT's Project Gallery.


MuBE (Museu Brasileiro da Escultura), São Paulo, Brazil (1988)

Patriarch Plaza, São Paulo, Brazil (2002)

Bosc d'Anjou

National Coach Museum, Lisbon, Portugal (2015)

Ricardo Anton

Cais das Artes, Vitoria, Brazil (2011)

Gabriel de Andrade Fernandes

Saint Peter Chapel, Campos de Jordão, Brazil (1987)

Peter Guthrie

Paulistano Armchair (1957)