Paulo A. Mendes Da Rocha set up his practice in 1955, aged 27, and delivered his first masterpiece, the Sao Paulo Athletic Club, two years later. The building immediately confirmed his place as an original force among the international avant garde of Brutalist architects. Though in a quite different manner, his work projects the same powerful formal and structural presence as, say, the works of Louis Kahn, Kenzo Tange, or indeed MacMillan and Metzstein. Da Rocha’s architecture certainly fits Robert Hughes’ definition of Modernism as “the shock of the new”.


In 2006, when he was awarded architecture’s greatest accolade, the Pritzker Prize. The jury citation referred to da Rocha’s “deep understanding of the poetics of space,” and the fact that his was an architecture of “profound engagement” – a reference to da Rocha’s committed and strongly Left-leaning socio-political views.