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Mendes Da Rocha Wins Architecture Prize

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Mendes Da Rocha Wins Architecture Prize
By ALEX VEIGA, Associated Press Writer
Sun Apr 9, 12:55 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, renowned for designing bold, open structures that blend with their surroundings, was named the winner of the 2006 Pritzker Architecture Prize on Sunday.

Mendes da Rocha, 78, is the second Brazilian architect to receive the prestigious award, which is sponsored by the family that developed the Hyatt Hotel chain. Oscar Niemeyer was honored in 1988.

Other past winners include Frank Gehry of California, Rafael Moneo of Spain and Renzo Piano of Italy.

"I am very surprised, very honored by the award," Mendes da Rocha said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his Sao Paulo home.

"What's most important is not whether there's prizes or not, but that I'm understood," Mendes da Rocha said. "Architecture ... embodies communication. As such, my communication — as little as it may be — is comprehensible. By that measure, I can feel happy with a prize."

A formal ceremony will be held next month in Istanbul, Turkey. Mendes da Rocha will receive a bronze medallion and a $100,000 grant.

A panel of architects, critics, academics and others selected Mendes da Rocha, praising his collection of designs over six decades for a variety of structures, including homes, museums, sports arenas, apartment buildings and public areas.

"While few of his buildings were realized outside of Brazil, the lessons to be learned from his work, both as a practicing architect and a teacher, are universal," Thomas J. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, said in a statement.

The jury noted Mendes da Rocha wasn't afraid of taking risks — conjuring audacious, modern designs often from just a few simple materials such as concrete and steel and while sometimes overcoming limitations in the construction resources available.

Some of his buildings were erected in Brazil beginning in the 1950s when construction technology was not as sophisticated as it was elsewhere.

"And even given that context, his buildings were enormously powerful," said Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Another theme is Mendes da Rocha's use of water, often in the form of reflecting pools.

Among his most widely known structures is the Brazilian Sculpture Museum in Sao Paulo. He used large slabs of concrete to create spaces partly underground, using the entire 5,000-square-foot site as his canvas.

"The building itself is more a fusion with the landscape," Thorne said. "You sort of go down ramps and enter the building, and the spaces open up below it."

Mendes da Rocha's design for the Patriarch Plaza, a public square in Sao Paulo, is also among his most celebrated works.

The structure features a huge concrete canopy suspended from a portico that serves as shade for pedestrians.

"Construction is a transformation of space," Mendes da Rocha said. "When you build, you need to imagine the universe is something entirely new that didn't exist before."

Mendes da Rocha, of Vitoria, Brazil, got his professional start in the 1950s. Shortly after graduating from college, he won a national competition to design part of the Paulistano Athletic Club in Sao Paulo. The project earned him accolades.

In the ensuing years, he became one of the most celebrated architects in Brazil.

Throughout, he has maintained his own practice and took time to teach for several years at the University of Sao Paulo. He is developing a master plan for part of the University of Vigo in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain.

Despite the accolades, Mendes da Rocha said perhaps the best compliment is when someone sees his work and says, "This is what we wanted. This is what was missing.

"As long as I live I'm going to work," he said. "I keep myself alive. In Brazil, we're all young."

On the Net:
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That is his main work, the MUBE (Museu Brasileiro da Escultura - Brazilian Museum of Sculpture) in São Paulo, a project of 1986:

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A residential building projected by him, in São Paulo:
(my picture)

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Galerias Vermelho (São Paulo), art gallery especialized in photograpy, there three houses there before Paulo Medes Da Rocha remodeled it in 2002:

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