LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Da Rocha's Spatial Poetry


All eyes are on this year's Pritzker Prize winning Brazilian architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha.

The second Brazilian architect to receive the Pritzker Prize after Oscar Niemeyer, Paulo Mendès da Rocha has shaped the modern face of his country by poetically pairing concrete with the natural world.

While 78-year-old Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha has received little international exposure outside of his homeland during his 6-decade career, the pioneering Modernist has become the name on his industry's lips after earning its highest honor, the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize earlier this year. Those unfamiliar with his visionary opus will delight in its strength in size, purity, and diversity. From São Paulo's Paulistano Athletic Club and the famed Brazilian Sculpture Museum, to the private residence of Mario Masetti and the new university of Vigo in Spain — his bold, yet unobtrusive edifices settle seamlessly into their surrounding environment.

Be they public or private, each sculptural structure is an artful reflection of the studied poetry of space. "We are eternally wed in tribute to the natural world because it is from nature that everything emanates," he said during the Pritzker awards ceremony. "By constantly confronting nature's force I'm required to remain humble, for it is impossible to know everything and to anticipate every single one of nature's of its actions. You have to improvise, give it space to express itself."

One of da Rocha's most celebrated gifts is his capacity to give concrete unfathomable elasticity by nurturing it to bend and fold without ever breaking. Though his architecture differs from that of Oscar Niemeyer, another Brazilian Modernist and former Pritzker Prize winner, he acknowledges Niemeyer's influence on his work with concrete. "Oscar Niemeyer taught an entire generation of architects about the possibilities of concrete," explains da Rocha, by provoking a deep reflection on concrete's expressive possibilities by exploring its dimensions as a "liquid stone."

"Inspired by the principles and language of modernism, he brings a renewed force to each of his projects through his bold use of simple materials and a deep understanding of the poetics of space," explains Martha Thorne, executive director of Pritzker Prize of da Rocha's work. Lyrical and light, his structures follow the fluid strokes of his graceful pencil sketches. Composed of a singular folded steel bar, his serene, dynamic Paulistano armchair from 1957, for example (a designer classic reissued by the French company Objekto) seems to defy defies gravity as if poised like a dancer in mid-air. Exploring the limits of a sole, humble material such as steel, glass or concrete, da Rocha imagines airy, elemental structures that dialogue and play with the laws of nature. Though regarded as a member of the "brutalist" architectural movement, his incisive, poetic buildings are anything but belligerently brash.

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