Rafael Moneo awarded Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at Venice Architecture Biennale


29 April 2021

The Spanish architect, educator and theorist Rafael Moneo has been awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest accolade of the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The Golden Lion is awarded to architects in honour of their lifetime’s work. Moneo, 83, who won the Pritzker Prize in 1996, was nominated for the Golden Lion by the Lebanese architect Hashim Sarkis, who called him “one of the most transformative architects of his generation”.

“Throughout his long career, Moneo has maintained a poetic prowess, reminding us of the powers of architectural form to express, shape but also to endure,” he added.

Mone0 was born in the Spanish town Tudela in 1937. After obtaining his qualifications from the Escuela Técnica Superior of Madrid in 1961, he worked in the studios of Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza and Jørn Utzon. The latter was a particular influence, appearing to Moneo “as the legitimate heir of the masters of the heroic period,” in the architect’s own words. At the time, Utzon was working on the design of the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Before taking up a fellowship at the Academy of Spain in Rome, Moneo traveled throughout Scandinavia, meeting Alvar Aalto among others.

Moneo set up his own firm in 1965, and went on to design a series of notable brick buildings, including the Bankiter building in Madrid (1976), the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida (1986), Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet (now ArkDes) in Stockholm (1998) and the Prado extension in Madrid (2007).

Moneo taught at his alma mater, the Escuela Técnica Superior in Madrid, between 1985 and 1990. He has also served as chairman of the architecture department of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he continues to lecture.