Showcasing Brazil to the world: Paulo Mendes da Rocha

Brazil's pavilion at Expo 1970

Star architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, born in Espirito Santo on 25 October 1928, turns 90 today. Opening his Sao Paolo office in 1955, Mendes da Rocha quickly established himself as an architect of the Paulista school, which contrasted sophisticated engineering with a ‘rough’ finish.

It was this approach that saw Mendes da Rocha chosen to design Brazil’s pavilion at World Expo 1970 Osaka, a creation that served as a springboard for his career.

Looking to promote dialogue with other countries, the Government of Brazil aimed to use Expo 1970 to restore Brazilian influence and promote its particular style. Favouring a ‘Brazilian approach’ to architecture while respecting budget and time constraints – and with only 25 days to submit proposals – the Institute of Brazilian Architects was unanimous in selecting Mendes da Rocha’s unique pavilion design.

Mendes da Rocha's design for Brazil's Expo 1970 pavilion

Notable for its “desirable sign of modesty”, the pavilion was composed of a large, geometrical concrete roof delicately poised atop an undulating landscape. The discretion of the structure led it being dubbed a ‘non-pavilion’, underlining the architect’s aim to focus design on the relationship with the site, rather than on the pavilion itself.

Brazil's pavilion at Expo 1970 Osaka

Despite its popularity during the Expo, the pavilion was removed after closing. It nevertheless remains an icon of Brutalism, shaping the Brazilian architectural tradition and being the first of several celebrated creations by Mendes da Rocha, whose achievements led to him being awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2006.

Brazil's pavilion at Expo 1939 New York

Following the likes of Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, who created Brazil’s iconic modernist pavilion at Expo 1939 New York, Mendes da Rocha’s creation for Expo 1970 set a high bar for the future. All eyes are now on the Brazil’s selected pavilion design for World Expo 2020 Dubai, due to be announced in November…

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