Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, soon-to-be 92 years old, donated his archive to Casa da Arquitectura, the Portuguese Centre for Architecture of Oporto. The announcement arrived last Thursday, September 10, 2020. The 8,800 items from the 2006 Pritzker’s studio arrived the same day in Oporto, where Nuno Sampaio, director of the Portuguese institution, welcomed it.
The event did not go unnoticed, especially by Brazilian architects and professors at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of São Paulo (FAU-USP). Mendes da Rocha’s choice aroused criticism, touching on past colonial relations between Brazil and Portugal, and speculations on the role of Jair Bolsonaro’s cultural policies in this affair.
Casa da Arquitectura has been working on Mendes da Rocha’s oeuvre and Brazilian architecture extensively since its opening in 2017, from its headquarters, at the former Royal Winery in Matosinhos. Here, in 2018, at the inauguration speech of the two exhibitions “Infinito Vão” and “Duas Casas”, Mendes da Rocha took a stand for resisting the wave of far-right populism at work in Brazil. At the time Jair Bolsonaro was a candidate for Brazil’s presidency.
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All the archive of Paulo Mendes da Rocha, now at his office in São Paulo, was acquired by Casa da Arquitectura, a private institution in Portugal. This invaluable material, around 9000 items, will be transferred to Europe soon. For an architect that always mentioned how colonial policies were predatory to Brasil, this is ironic to say the least. The picture of PMR office was taken in 2019. . #paulomendesdarocha
But, says Nuno Sampaio, “Mendes da Rocha chose the Casa da Arquitectura for the work we do: our mission includes supporting research and spreading the knowledge of architecture not only to professionals but to a wider public.” Sampaio told Domus that the institution’s profile was decisive in the architect’s choice, whose archive will be digitized. Today the Portuguese institution is working on its “second building”, a digital platform where its archives will be accessible for free, as “a window open to global society”.
Opening image: Paulo Mendes da Rocha in his studio in São Paulo. Photo Stefano Passamonti