Architect Rocha
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Architect Rocha

Sashaying Rio de Janeiro may attract more tourists, but São Paulo, draped in ambivalent light and frequent drizzle, is Brazil’s center of cultural production. That energy emanates, in no small way, from resident architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, whose signature buildings are located within a few square miles of one another. His work, which includes the Guaimbê apartment building, was recognized with 2006’s Pritzker Architecture Prize. (Fernando De Aratanha/For The Times)
Mendes da Rocha’s preferred medium is concrete, which he’s been known to call “liquid stone.” He makes it look light and airy at the entrance to the Guaimbê apartment building in São Paulo. (Fernando De Aratanha/For The Times)
The work considered to be Mendes da Rocha’s masterpiece is the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture, a multilevel configuration graced with a massive concrete “bridge” and ponds stocked with lazily gliding koi fish. (Fernando De Aratanha/For The Times)
Harbors and canals have fascinated Mendes da Rocha since boyhood, when he accompanied his engineer-father on excursions to watery locales. A key feature of the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture in São Paulo is its “water mirror.” (Fernando De Aratanha/For The Times)
Another of Mendes da Rocha’s major São Paulo projects is the old polytechnic he revamped into an elegant post-industrial expanse of bare brickwork, glassed-in courtyards and metal catwalks. It houses the Pinacoteca do Estado, or state art gallery. (Fernando De Aratanha/For The Times)
Concrete and steel seem almost sprightly in Mendes da Rocha’s design for the Cultural Center of the Federation of Industry in São Paulo. (Fernando De Aratanha/For The Times)
Glass walls open up an interior portion of the Cultural Center of the Federation of Industry in São Paulo. In every design, Mendes da Rocha tries to achieve a balance of elements. (Fernando De Aratanha/For The Times)
Paulo Mendes da Rocha pauses at his office in downtown São Paulo. Cities “can’t be something eternal,” the 79-year-old architect believes, but must constantly change. Beauty, imagination and adaptability are what’s needed from architects and architecture, not monuments, he says. (Fernando De Aratanha/For The Times)