Brazilian architect da Rocha, who won the Pritzker, dies aged 92

Paulo Mendes da Rocha, who was widely considered Brazil’s greatest living architect and who won some of architecture’s most prestigious awards, died Sunday in Sao Paulo, his family announced.

He was 92. No cause of death was given.

Da Rocha was “one of the biggest names in Brazilian and worldwide architecture,” though most of his work was done in Sao Paulo, said the ArchDaily website.

Brazil’s Council of Architecture and Urbanism said he would be remembered as an “audacious iconoclast.”

A leader of Brazil’s brutalist and modernist Paulista school, which emphasized geometric lines, bulky masses and rough finishes, da Rocha won the 2006 Pritzker Prize, considered architecture’s closest equivalent to the Nobel Prize. 

He was only the second Brazilian to win the Pritzker, after legendary architect Oscar Niemeyer, the man behind the futuristic design of Brasilia. Niemeyer won in 1988.

Da Rocha, who taught architecture at the University of Sao Paulo, was banned from teaching for much of the 1970s by the military government, which opposed his “opinions on the social role that architects should have,” according to ArchDaily. 

His most iconic works are all in Sao Paulo, Latin America’s most populous city. They include the Portuguese Language Museum and the renovation of the Pinacoteca art museum.

The Pritzker jurors also singled out his Athletic Club of Sao Paulo as “an early masterpiece.”

Among his few works overseas, he designed the new, ultramodern National Coach Museum in Lisbon, which opened in 2015. 

His fame abroad came mostly in the past few decades. Da Rocha won Japan’s Praemium Imperiale in 2016. And a year later, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects.