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Rafael Moneo: 1937—: Architect - Worked On Many Spanish Projects

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Moneo had come of age in a Spain that was under the control of a right-wing military dictatorship headed by Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Modernism was the style he initially favored, but a fellowship at the Academy of Spain in Rome from 1963 to 1965 awakened his interest in classical styles. In 1965 he finished his doctorate in architecture and opened his own practice in Madrid. His first commission was for a factory in Zaragoza, but over the next decade he gained increasing prominence for several notable structures. The first of these to win international attention was the Bankinter Building in Madrid, which he did with Ramón Bescós. He also taught at Madrid and Barcelona universities, and became known as a deft critic in his field, especially after launching an architectural magazine in 1974 called Arquitectura Bis.

Spain entered a new era in 1975 when Franco died and King Juan Carlos I ascended to the throne. The king quickly steered the country toward a constitutional democracy, along the lines of Great Britain, and Moneo's style fit in perfectly with the new cultural spirit, which merged traditional elements with a progressive verve. Yet Moneo was also gaining an international reputation, and began accepting teaching posts in the United States. In 1985 he moved his family, which included his wife, Belén, and three daughters, to the Boston area when he became chair of Harvard University's department of architecture. In 1991 he became the Josep Lluís Sert Professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, named for an esteemed Barcelona-born architect of the mid-twentieth century who had also taught at the school.

At a Glance . . .


Born Jose Rafael Moneo Vallés on May 9, 1937, in Tudela, Navarra, Spain; son of Rafael (a structural engineer) and Teresa Moneo; married to Belén Feduchi (a contemporary furniture company owner); children: three daughters. Education: Madrid University of Architecture, diploma, 1961, doctorate, 1965; studied at the Academy of Spain, Rome, Italy, c.1963-65. Military Service: Spanish Army, 1958, 1959, 1962.


Career: Worked for the firm of Jorn Utzon, Hellebaeck, Denmark, early 1960s; opened private practice in Madrid, 1965; Madrid University School of Architecture, associate professor, 1966-70, professor of composition, 1980-85; Barcelona University School of Architecture, Barcelona, Spain, professor of architectural theory, 1970-80; Arquitectura Bis, co-founder, 1974; Cooper Union Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies, New York City, visiting fellow, 1976-77; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, visiting fellow, 1982; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, chair, department of architecture, 1985-90, Josep Lluís Sert Professor of the Graduate School of Design, 1991–.


Awards: Premio de Roma, 1962; Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, 1993; Manuel de la Dehesa Prize, Spanish Ministry of Public Works/Council of Architectural Associations, 1994, for the most significant public building in Spain, 1983-93; Gold Medal of Architecture, International Union of Architects, and Gold Medal of Architecture, French Academy of Architecture, and the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Hyatt Foundation, all 1996; Royal Gold Medal, Royal Institute of British Architects, 2003.


Moneo, however, continued to work in Spain. For some time he commuted to Madrid every weekend to supervise the gutting and renovation of the city's main train station, Atocha. In 1986 work was completed on one of his most outstanding projects, the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida. The museum covered an excavation of Roman ruins that dated back some two millennia. Mérida had been founded in 25 B.C.E. by Emperor Augustus, and it served as a trade center for the part of the Roman Empire known as Lusitania. There were many Roman edifices in Mérida still functioning, including a bridge and a theater, and Moneo's museum building connected the theater and another monument, a traditional Roman amphitheater, by tunnel to the excavation site, which featured a Paleo-Christian basilica, tombs, and a house. It won him the Spanish government's Manuel de la Dehesa Prize in 1994 for the most significant public building in Spain in a period of ten years. "New walls of Roman brick, laid tightly in a series of arched corridors, create an abstract pattern vaguely suggestive of a binary rhythm, touching history without re-creating it," wrote Los Angeles Magazine critic Greg Goldin of the Mérida museum.


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