Paulo Mendes da Rocha
Instituted in 1961, the Gold Medal of the International Union of Architects recognizes “professionals whose qualities, talents, and actions have had an international impact on the diverse sectors of architectural practice.” Though a generic merit, it fits the latest awardee – who died at 92 on 28 May 2021, shortly after being named the winner – like a glove. Born in 1928, the Brazilian Paulo Mendes da Rocha combined a powerful formal and structural language linked to brutalist aesthetics with a deep social commitment in works already considered classics of the 20th century’s second half. With this trophy Mendes da Rocha joined an illustrious list of recipients that features Hassan Fathy (1984), Rafael Moneo (1996), I. M. Pei (2014), and Tadao Ando (2005). Besides this lifetime achievement prize, the UIA gave five other awards in different categories: to Francis Kéré (sustainable and humane environments), Anupama Kundoo (technology in architecture), Dogan Kuban (architectural writing), David Kaunitz + Ka Wai Yeung + Jiangson Lu (impoverished communities), and Joan Busquets (urban planning and design).