Modest hero `a classical revolutionary'

Rafael Moneo is a hero among Spanish architects. What won him the Los Angeles commission was apparently the city's desire for a "Spanish spirit" to reflect its Hispanic roots. If brooding, baroque opulence is what they want, they can forget it. Moneo is the master of the cool, forward- looking structure that enhances its context without outflanking it.

"Wise architecture," was one critic's verdict some years back. "The work of a classical revolutionary."

Moneo was awarded the international Pritzker Architecture prize, worth $100,000, (pounds 66,300) on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Reports in the Spanish press yesterday described the recipient as proud and self-confident, but modest. Just like his buildings.

The critic Fernando Samaniego yesterday summed the architect up thus: "Moneo is classical and avant-garde at the same time, but not to excess. His work shows a strong link to the places where his buildings are situated. He is the Spanish architect most widely respected among his peers."

It is some indication of the esteem in which this unassuming man is held that Spanish architects in 1994 voted his National Museum of Roman Art in Merida, completed in 1986 on the excavated site of Spain's principal Roman city, the best public building of the decade.

Other triumphs include Madrid's reincarnated Atocha station, combining the original majestic ironwork with four times the capacity, and the transformation of an austere 18th-century palace into the popular Thyssen-Bornemisza art museum.

Completed in 1992, both buildings have blended into the fabric of the capital, and it is impossible to enter either without your spirits lifting. Each carries heavy historical baggage, which Moneo transmutes into something light and modern. In contrast to monumental constructions that make you feel like an ant, Moneo treats you like a human being.

The exciting thing about buildings, said Moneo recently, was watching people take them over. "Buildings acquire their own life when the users, the people, become a part of the building," he said. "It is a privilege to establish the terms on which a city's reality turns. Buildings become a reference point for the lives of the people who live there."

Moneo, 58, from Tudela in Navarre, is well-established in the United States. He headed Harvard University's architecture school from 1985 to 1990, after 15 years teaching in Barcelona and Madrid.

His first US building, the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College near Boston, completed in 1993, was praised by Spanish critics as modest, cultured, elegant, without ostentation or solemnity. The description seems apt for the privileged young ladies destined to use it.

Projects in train include an extension to Mies van der Rohe's Fine Arts Museum in Houston Texas, Stockholm's Museums of Art and Architecture and a hotel in Berlin's Potsdamer Platz.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world