Spain’s Rafael Moneo awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale

A Golden Great

Spain’s Rafael Moneo awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale

Spanish architect Rafael Moneo (Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia)

Rafael Moneo has been named the recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, a prestigious award that will be bestowed to the 83-year-old Spanish architect, critic, and educator at a May 22 ceremony to kick off the 17th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale.

The selection of Moneo was made by the board of directors of the La Biennale di Venezia at the recommendation of Architecture Biennale curator, Hakim Sarkis. Also receiving a Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in memoriam during the May 22 awards ceremony and inauguration will be Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect Lina Bo Bardi, who passed away in 1992. That posthumous award was previously announced in early March.

The conferral of the Golden Lion marks the newest addition to Moneo’s considerable trophy chest. Among other awards and accolades, Moneo has received the Rolf Schock in Visual Arts (1993), the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1996), the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (2003), and the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture (2012). Architects awarded with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement during recent past editions of the Venice Architecture Biennale include Kenneth Frampton (2018), Paulo Mendes da Rocha (2016), Phyllis Lambert (2014), Alvaro Siza (2012), and Rem Koolhaas (2010).

a post-modern cathedral building
Rafael Moneo Arquitecto’s Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in Downtown Los Angeles. (Los Angeles/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Said Sarkis of Moneo in a statement (the bolded words and phrases were emphasized by him, not AN):

As a practitioner, and through his broad array of buildings, like the Kursaal Auditorium, The Prado Museum, the Atocha Train Station, and the Los Angeles Cathedral, he has highlighted the ability of every architectural project to respond to contingencies of site and program while transcending them.

As an educator, he has rigorously guided several generations of architects towards architecture as a vocation. As a scholar, he has combined his visual prowess and analytic rigors to help reinterpret some of the most canonical historic buildings with fresh eyes.

As a critic of the contemporary scene, he has written on emerging phenomena and key projects and has established some of the most important dialogues on the present scene of architecture with colleagues from around the world.

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 has also been tenaciously committed to architecture as an act of building.

The Golden Lion for lifetime achievement is only befitting for the architect who took part in the Giudecca housing project of 1983, who won the competition for a new Cinema Palace at the Lido di Venezia in 1991, and who has drawn many a lesson for architecture from Venice.”

Born in the northern Spanish city of Tudela in 1937, Moneo has been based in Madrid since 1965 when he established his eponymous architectural studio, Rafael Moneo Arquitecto, and began teaching at Escuela Técnica Superior of Madrid. From 1985 through 1990, Moneo served as chairman of the Architecture Department of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Before that. from 1980 to 1985, he served as chaired professor of composition at the Escuela Técnica Superior of Madrid. In 1991, Moneo was named the Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at Harvard GSD, where he continues to lecture in the role of Professor Emeritus. In 1997, he was elected as a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Spain.

exterior of a modern civic complex with a bridge in the foreground
The Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium in San Sebastián, Spain. (generalpoteito/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.5)

As detailed by the Venice Architecture Biennale, among Moneo’s best known completed works in his native Spain and further afield are:

The conversation of Madrid’s Villahermosa Palace into the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum (1989-92), the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation in Palma de Mallorca (1987-1992), the Diagonal Building in Barcelona (completed in collaboration with Manuel de Solá-Morales, 1988-1993); the Museums of Modern Art and Architecture in Stockholm (1994-98), the Kursaal Congress Centre and Auditorium in San Sebastián (1991-1999), the Prado Museum Extension in Madrid (2001-2007), the Beirut Souks (1996-2009), the Northwest Science Building at Columbia University in New York City (2007-2010), and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Peretsman-Scully Hall (2007-2013), a two-building complex at Princeton University in New Jersey.

As mentioned by Sarkis in his remarks, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angeles in Los Angeles (1996–2002) and the expansion of Madrid’s fabled Atocha Train Station (2007–2012) are two additional signature works by Moneo.

The 17th Venice Architecture Biennale commences May 22 and will run through November 21.