Paulo Mendes da Rocha
Courtesy Paulo Mendes da Rocha Paulo Mendes da Rocha

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced today that Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha has won the 2017 Royal Gold Medal for Architecture. Mendes da Rocha, who also won the Japan Art Association's 2016 Praemium Imperiale International Arts Award in architecture just two weeks ago, will be presented with the medal at a ceremony in February 2017. The Royal Gold Medal is RIBA's highest honor, approved by the reigning monarch of England since 1948, to architects whose work contributes to the advancement of the field of architecture.

Ricardo Anton

Visit ARCHITECT's Project Gallery to view more work by Paulo Mendes da Rocha.

Mendes da Rocha, who was born in Vitória, Brazil, in 1928, has become Brazil's most celebrated living architect, adding the RIBA Gold Medal to an impressive list of accolades that also includes the 2006 Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Mies van der Rohe Prize in 2000, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement from the 15th Venice Biennale earlier this year, and the Praemium Imperiale earlier this month.

“Paulo Mendes da Rocha is a world-class architect and a true living legend," Jane Duncan, RIBA president and chair of the selection committee, said in a release. "[His] work is highly unusual in comparison to the majority of the world’s most celebrated architects. He is an architect with an incredible international reputation, yet almost all his masterpieces are built exclusively in his home country. Revolutionary and transformative, Mendes da Rocha’s work typifies the architecture of 1950s Brazil: raw, chunky, and beautifully ‘brutal’ concrete."

Capela de San Pedro interior
Cristiano Mascaro Capela de San Pedro interior

Mendes da Rocha's response to the award humbly acknowledged past collaborators: “After so many years of work, it is a great joy to receive this recognition from the Royal Institute of British Architects for the contribution my lifetime of work and experiments have given to the progress of architecture and society," he said in the release. "I would like to send my warmest wishes to all those who share my passion, in particular British architects, and share this moment with all the architects and engineers that have collaborated on my projects.”

The Royal Gold Medal has been awarded by RIBA since 1848. Previous winners include Frank Lloyd Wright (1941), Charles and Ray Eames (1979), Norman Foster, Hon. FAIA (1983), Patricia and Michael Hopkins (1994), and Frank Gehry, FAIA (2000). Life and practice partners Sheila O’Donnell, Hon. FAIA, and John Tuomey, Hon. FAIA, won the Royal Gold Medal in 2015. The late Zaha Hadid won the 2016 Royal Gold Medal, and received the award just months before her untimely death.

The 2017 RIBA Royal Gold Medal selection committee was led by RIBA President Jane Duncan, and included Sir Peter Cook, founder of Archigram (which won the 2004 RIBA Royal Gold Medal); Neil Gillespie; Victoria Thornton; and 2015 winner Sheila O’Donnell. 

This is a breaking news story and may be updated.

Visit ARCHITECT's Project Gallery to view more work by Paulo Mendes da Rocha.