José Rafael Moneo was born in the small town of Tudela, Navarra, Spain in May of 1937. His mother, Teresa, was the daughter of a magistrate from Aragón. His father, Rafael, whose family roots were in Tudela, worked there all his life as an industrial engineer. He has a sister, Teresa, who studied philosophy and literature. His late brother, Mariano, studied engineering. Moneo confesses that as he grew up, he was first attracted to philosophy and painting; he did not have a clear calling to be an architect, but attributes his inclination toward architecture to his father’s interest in the subject. It was with some difficulty that he left his close family ties in 1954 to go to Madrid to study architecture.

He obtained his architectural degree in 1961 from the Madrid University School of Architecture. He credits his professor of the history of architecture, Leopoldo Torres Balbás with influencing him greatly While still a student, he worked with architect Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza, saying “I wanted to become an architect in the same fashion as Oiza with all of the enthusiasm professed by him in his work.” When Moneo completed his degree, he went to Hellebaeck, Denmark to work with Jørn Utzon, “whom I saw,” says Moneo, “as the legitimate heir of the masters of the heroic period.” Utzon was working on the design of the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Before returning to Spain in 1962, Moneo says, “I traveled around the Scandinavian countries where I was lucky enough to be received by Alvar Aalto in Helsinki.”

Once back in Madrid, Moneo won a contest to cover one of the architect spaces at the Academy of Spain in Rome, Italy. He was able to combine his trip to Rome with a honeymoon with his new bride, Belén Feduchi, daughter of architect Luis Feduchi. “It was wonderful,” says Moneo, “to be in Rome with her, a person who shared my enthusiasm for architecture without being an architect.” Under a two year fellowship, he stayed on at the Spanish Academy in Rome, a period that he calls “fundamental to my career. It allowed me to study, travel, visit schools, get to know Zevi, Tafuri, Portoghesi, and others, but more than anything, to gain a knowledge of that great city produced a great impact in my education as an architect. Life at the academy allowed us to establish great friendships with musicians, painters and sculptors.”

Upon their return to Madrid in 1965, they settled in a house-studio in the Madrid neighborhood of El Viso and were blessed with their first daughter, Belén. That same year, he received his first important commission to design the Diestre Factory in Zaragoza. The following year, he began teaching at the Madrid University School of Architecture, as well as publishing articles on architecture. During those years there, he actively participated in gatherings of architects which they called “Little Congresses” that were attended by the most active Spanish architects. Among them were Carlos de Miguel, Oiza, Molezún, Corrales, Garcia de Paredes, etc. from Madrid, and Oriol Bohigas, Federico Correa, Tusquets, Clotet, Bonet, etc from Barcelona. Foreign architects attended as well, including Alvaro Siza of Portugal, Aldo Rossi of Italy, (both of whom later were Pritzker Laureates), as well as Peter Eisenman of the United States and Gregotti. Of these gatherings, Moneo says, “a new phase of architectural life in Spain was initiated.”

In 1968, he received his second important commission, the Urumea Project, an apartment building in San Sebastián. It was also the year of the birth of his second daughter, Teresa. A third daughter, Clara Matilde, would be born in 1975.

He describes the period in his own words: “Life in schools during those years was hard; the student agitation of 1968, and the political unrest during the last years of Franco, contributed to making academic activity precarious. It was a battle trying to make students understand architecture as interesting, but gradually the environment changed. It was during this time that with a group of architects, I founded the magazine <em>Arquitectura Bis</em>, where many of my writings were published.”

In 1974, he received his first commission for a work in Madrid, the Bankinter Office Building, which was accomplished in collaboration with Ramón Bescós. Shortly thereafter, he was commissioned to design the City Hall for Logroño. “These two works would allow me to clearly express by architectural vision,” says Moneo. In 1976, Moneo was invited to the United States to be a visiting fellow for a year at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies and to teach at the Cooper Union School of Architecture, both in New York City. “The experience for the whole family was profound libraries, expositions, conferences, concertsand certainly marked our lives.”

When they moved back to Madrid, they became totally absorbed in life there. His wife, Belén Feduchi played an important role in activities related to their founding of B.D. Madrid, a company dedicated to the design and promotion of contemporary furniture.

It was during this same period, the late seventies and early eighties, that he became a visiting professor at the schools of architecture of both Princeton and Harvard Universities, as well as the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

In 1980 he became a chaired professor at the School of Architecture in Madrid for five years. At that time, he received the commission for the Museum of Roman Art at Mérida. Two years later, the Previsión Española Building at Seville would become his project as well.

In 1984, Moneo was named chairman of the architecture department of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, a position he held until 1990. He and his family moved to Cambridge where they lived for five years ...

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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


Another of Moneo's important projects that won an international competition in 1986 is the Diagonal Building in collaboration with Manuel de Solá-Morales, a mixed use structure for offices, apartment hotel, and commercial center in Barcelona. The building, nearly a thousand feet long is parallel to the Diagonal Avenue with a park behind. "In order that such an important volume would not be perceived as an undifferentiated mass, both the plan and profile are broken and segmented, and the building is perforated by passageways in those places responding to a variety of urban circumstances," explains Moneo.

Two of his major projects relate to air and rail transport. His first was for the Spanish Ministry of Transportation which wanted a total overhaul of the Atocha Railway Station in Madrid, quadrupling its capacity. The old canopy which was retained with the addition of a clock tower is one of the key elements of the project. Moneo's plan incorporated a station square, the long distance and the commuter train stations. For his San Pablo Airport in Seville, Moneo explains that the immense departure concourse with the deep blue color of the vaults as its main feature, is meant to be the point of encounter between the sky and the land.

In Jaén, Spain, Moneo designed a branch office for the Bank of Spain which was completed in 1988. He describes the project, "From the very start, the idea was to fit the needs of the program into a single, closed, perfect solid. The degree of diversity is achieved through a system of voids connecting floors and spaces. The exterior maintains the character of a fortress."

Another project in Seville was a new branch office of the insurance company, Previsión Española, a three story structure that fits into the traditional architecture of the city.

In 1992, Moneo received the Spanish government's highest award, The Gold Medal for Achievement in Fine Arts. The French Academy of Architecture's Gold Medal and the International Union of Architects Gold Medal were both presented this year. He received the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1993; that same year he was awarded the Schock Prize in Visual Arts in Sweden, adding to a list of numerous other fellowships and prizes, including the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The purpose of the Pritzker Architecture Prize is to honor annually a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

The distinguished jury that selected Rafael Moneo as the 1996 Laureate consists of J. Carter Brown, director emeritus of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (who is chairman of the jury and a founding member); and alphabetically, Giovanni Agnelli, chairman of Fiat from Torino, Italy; Charles Correa, architect of Bombay, India; Ada Louise Huxtable, author and architectural critic of New York; Toshio Nakamura, editor-in-chief of A+U architectural publications of Tokyo, Japan; Jorge Silvetti, architect and chairman of the department of architecture Harvard Graduate School of Design; and juror emeritus, Lord Rothschild, chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund of Great Britain and formerly the chairman of that country's National Gallery of Art. 


Read Rafael Moneo's Essay

José Rafael Moneo is above all an architect of tremendous range. As an eclectic, defined here as selecting and using what is best from all sources, which includes his own creativity, his flexibility in varying the appearance of his works based on their differing contexts is reflected in the way he takes on each new commission as a fresh exercise. He draws on an incredible reservoir of concepts and ideas which he filters through the specifics of the site, the purpose, the form, the climate and other circumstances of the project. As a result, each of his buildings is unique, but at the same time, uniquely recognizable as being from his palette.

That palette has encompassed the ancient, the Museum of Roman Art at Merida, which is one of his finest accomplishments, to the minimalist monument planned for San Sebastián—two translucent cubes that will house the Kursall Auditorium and Congress Center. There are infinite variations between these two examples, embodied in everything from residences and apartments, to art museums, a railway station, an airport, a factory, a hotel, banks, a city hall and other office buildings. Each of his designs has a confident and timeless quality indicative of a master architect whose talent is obvious from the first concept to the last detail of the completed building.

And the completed building is of utmost importance to Moneo, even to the point of being self-effacing, he believes in the built work, and that once built, the work must stand on its own, a reality that is far more than a translation of the architect's drawings. He regards the materials and techniques of construction to be just as important as the architect's vision and concept, and therefore an integral part of making architecture lasting—another the key attribute that he strives for in his work.

As a writer and critic, devoting almost as much time to education as he does to design, he further shapes the future of architecture with his words. His words as a teacher are most important, influencing faculties and students alike with his steady commitment to the modernist tradition, both in the United States and Spain. In the former, he served as Chairman of the Department of Architecture Harvard Graduate School of Design for five years, and in his native country, on the faculties of both the Madrid and Barcelona Universities.

Moneo's career is the ideal example of knowledge and experience enhancing the mutual interaction of theory, practice and teaching. The Pritzker Architecture Prize honors Moneo for these parallel efforts of the past, present and future. 

Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Giovanni Agnelli
Charles Correa
Ada Louise Huxtable
Toshio Nakamura
Jorge Silvetti
Lord Rothschild (Juror Emeritus)
Bill Lacy (Secretary to the Jury)

The Getty Center, Los Angeles, California

The Getty CenterThe Getty Center sits on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains from which visitors see the disparate aspects of Los Angeles's landscape—the Pacific Ocean, the San Gabriel Mountains, and the vast street-grid of the city. Inspired by the relationship between these elements, architect Richard Meier designed the complex to highlight both nature and culture.

The two naturally occurring ridges are used to organize the buildings that make up the complex. The Museum houses the Getty collections of European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, and decorative arts as well as European and American and European. In addition to the five pavilions for art, a circular building houses the Getty Research Institute (GRI), used primarily by Getty scholars, staff, and visiting researchers. Two buildings to the north and east of the Arrival Plaza house the Getty Grant Program, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the J. Paul Getty Trust administration offices.

Views, light and a rich variety of spaces are guiding principles of the architecture of the Getty. The five galleries, offices, and the auditorium lead out to courtyards and terraces. Much of the buildings are clad in a warm beige travertine, a stone chosen for this project because it is often associated with public architecture and expresses qualities the Getty Center celebrates: permanence, solidity, simplicity, warmth, and craftsmanship.

The 134,000-square-foot Central Garden at the Getty Center was designed by artist Robert Irwin. The design of the Central Garden highlights the changing seasons and re-establishes the natural ravine between the Museum and the Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities with a tree-lined walkway.

The Getty Center opened in December 1997, however the Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremony of 1996 was held there. An outdoor reception on one of the terraces was followed by the presentation ceremony inside what was to be a future restaurant space. Speakers included Harold Williams, then president and CEO or the Getty Trust, Richard Meier, architect, and for the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Bill Lacy, J. Carter Brown and Jay Pritzker. Rafael Moneo pronounced an acceptance speech. The dinner followed and was held in an outdoor space in a courtyard of the Museum temporarily covered by a transparent tent.


Read Rafael Moneo's Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Read Jay Pritzker's Ceremony Speech

Read J. Carter Brown's Ceremony Speech


moneo ceremony
Rafael Moneo, Cindy Pritzker, Governor Pete Wilson of California, Jay Pritzker, and J. Paul Getty Trust CEO Harold Williams 

Photo by Lee Salem


Ceremony Highlights

Full Ceremony