Rafael Moneo of Spain Named the 1996 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate
José Rafael Moneo, a 58 year-old architect who lives and works in Madrid, Spain, has been named the nineteenth Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In making the announcement, Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, which established the award in 1979, quoted from the jury's citation which describes Moneo as "an architect with tremendous range, each of whose buildings is unique, but at the same time, uniquely recognizable as being from his palette." Moneo is the first Spanish architect to be selected for his profession's highest honor which bestows a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion when the formal presentation is made on June 12 in the construction site of The Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Pritzker affirmed the jury's choice, saying, "Moneo not only practices architecture in the most real sense of designing buildings, taking into account all aspects of their construction, but also, he teaches his theories utilizing all his experience and knowledge, in effect sustaining these parallel efforts by enriching each with the other." Moneo has taught on the faculties of Spain's finest schools of architecture, the Universities of both Madrid and Barcelona, and for five years was the chairman of the department of architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he remains on the faculty still, in addition to lecturing around the world at major colleges and museums.
Most of Moneo's projects have been in his native country, but a fine example of his work was completed in the United States in 1993: the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Another project in Houston, Texas is on his drawing board for an addition to that city's Fine Arts Museum, an existing Mies van der Rohe structure.
In Spain, his most critically acclaimed work is the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida. Completed in 1986, the museum, which has been praised for its architectural monumentality that enhances the exhibits within, is constructed over the site of archaeological excavations of what was the most important city in Spain during the Roman Empire.
From his first work, which Moneo describes as "a transformer factory whose brick and steel volumes produce a rich and varied profile," to the minimalist monument under construction at San Sebastian, two translucent cubes that will house the Kursaal Auditorium and Congress Center. Between these two examples is an enormous range of designs encompassing residences and apartments, art museums, a railway station, an airport, a factory, a hotel, banks, a city hall and other office buildings.
Bill Lacy, executive director of the prize, quoted further from the formal citation from the jury which states, "Moneo takes on each new commission as a fresh exercise. He draws on an incredible reservoir of concepts and ideas which he filters through the circumstances of the project."
Lacy, who is an architect himself and president of the State University of New York at Purchase, elaborated, "In many of his writings and lectures, Moneo has made it clear that he does not consider architecture as merely the brilliant expression of an idea in the form of a drawing. He considers construction an essential part of the design process; architecture must be perceived as a built work to be reality." In fact, Moneo has said, "Architecture only reaches its true status when it is realized, when it acquires its being as an object, and when it is transformed into material reality as a building."
Of his built works, the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation which provides a study center and exhibition space on the island of Mallorca is described by Moneo as "reacting energetically against the world built around it. (He refers to the encroaching construction of buildings nearby.) The gallery is something of a military fortress." Another project for the housing of art was the rehabilitation of the Villahermosa Palace in Madrid for the collection of nearly 800 paintings of Baron von Thyssen. In this case, Moneo tried to retain as much of the original architecture of the 18th century structure as possible