Mendes da Rocha, who was born in Vitória, Brazil, in 1928, has become Brazil's most celebrated living architect, earning accolades such as the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in Architecture, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement from the 15th Venice Biennale, and the Praemium Imperiale all in 2016; in addition to the 2006 Pritzker Architecture Prize; and the Mies van der Rohe Prize in 2000. He is the second Brazilian to win the Pritzker Prize award, after Oscar Niemeyer, in 1988.
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.
He taught for several years at the Architecture College of the University of São Paulo, as well.