During the month of May, the world architectural community lost two of its luminaries, both of whom were citizens of Brazil: Jaime Lerner (17 December 1937 - 27 May 2021) and Paulo Mendes da Rocha (28 October 1928 - 23 May 2021).

JAIME LERNER (1937-2021)

Jaime Lerner, former UIA President, three-term Mayor of Curitiba, and Governor of Paraná, passed away on 27 May 2021.  

Born on 17 December 1937 to Jewish immigrants from Lodz, Poland, Lerner graduated from the Architecture School of the Federal University of Paraná in 1964. Only one year later, he helped found the Institute of Urban Planning and Research of Curitiba (IPPUC), and led the team which designed the celebrated Curitiba Master Plan. Adapted in 1968, the Plan was designed to control urban sprawl, reduce traffic in the downtown area, preserve Curitiba's historic city centre and to develop a convenient and affordable public transit system.

As Mayor of Curitiba (1971-1974, 1979-1983 and 1989-1992), Jaime Lerner, according to urban development specialist Dr. Marc A. Weiss, “literally invented one of the most important urban development innovations of the past half-century, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).” Almost fifty years later, the BRT system developed by Jaime Lerner in the 1970s, has been copied in more than 200 cities around the world. Almost as efficient a means of mass transportation as the subway, it is an economical in terms of urban land-use, but costs 90 percent less than building a subway, according to Dr. Weiss.

During his term as Governor of Paraná (1995-2002), Lerner attracted investments of over US$20 billion between 1995 and 2001. He focused on urban planning centred on quality of life: transport, education and sanitation. In 2002, he was elected President of the UIA at the General Assembly held in Berlin, Germany.

Jaime Lerner’s urban planning ideals live on in Curitiba, heralded as one of the world’s premier examples of successful urban planning, praised by the chairman of Habitat II in Istanbul as “the most innovative city” in Brazil and recommended by UNESCO as a model for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. He applied his talents as an architect and an urban planner to politics and policymaking, finding practical solutions to improve quality of life for ordinary people. He was known to say, "If you want to be innovative, take one zero off your budget, and if you want to be really creative, take two zeros off your budget."  


1990: United Nations Environmental Award, awarded by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)

1990: Annual Prize of the International Institute for Energy Conservation (IIEC)

1991: Scroll of Honor, United Nations Human Settlements Programme

1991: Tree of Learning, IUCN

1994: Neutra Award: for contributions to Environmental Design

1996: Child and Peace Award, UNICEF

1997: Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture, University of Virginia

2000: Prince Claus Award, the Netherlands (2000)

2001: Pioneer 2001, International Council for Caring Communities (ICCC-USA)

2001: World Technology Award for Transportation, National Museum of Science and Industry, UK

2011: Leadership in Transport Award of the International Transport Forum at the OECD

2012: Honorary Doctorate of Arts, Plymouth University


Paulo Mendes da Rocha, winner of the 2021 UIA Gold Medal, passed away on 23 May 2021. The UIA Gold Medal is the only award attributed to an architect for lifetime achievement by a jury of peers. According the 2021 jury, Mr. Mendes Da Rocha is a “towering figure, whose timeless work has marked the field of architecture throughout the world.”

Born in Vitória, Brazil on 25 October 1928, Mendes Da Rocha spent his childhood between the city of Vitória, the harbor capital of Espírito Santo and the Island Paquetá, in the middle of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 1957, only three years after his graduation from the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at Mackenzie Presbyterian University, he won a national project competition for the construction of the Clube Atlético Paulistano gymnasium, which received the Grande Prêmio Presidência da República award at the 6th Bienal of São Paulo in 1961.

Mendes da Rocha joined the academic world in the 1960s, thanks to his good friend, Vilanova Artigas, enriching the School of Architecture of the USP with their sense of social responsibility and democratic humanism, which influenced generations of architects in Brazil and beyond.

As leaders of the Paulista school of architects, they embraced the simplicity of massive, chunky forms and rough, exposed concrete, which Mendes da Rocha used to create São Paulo’s most famous buildings:  Saint Peter Chapel (1987), the Brazilian Sculpture Museum - MuBE (1988), Patriarch Plaza (1992-2002), the Pinacoteca do Estado (1993) and the FIESP Cultural Center (1997).

In an interview in 2003, Mendes da Rocha explained his philosophy: “Unlike many people who are afraid of poverty, I have always been attracted to it, to simple things, without knowing why. Not hardship, but the humility of simple things.”



2000 Mies Van der Rohe Foundation Prize for his project for the “Pinacoteca de São Paulo”. 

2000 Represented Brazil, 7th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.

2006 Pritzker Architecture Prize

2004 and 2013 Ordem do Mérito Cultural, Brazil

2012 and 2015,  Associação Paulista de Críticos de Arte, Brazil

2016 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at Venice Architecture Biennale

2016 Praemium Imperiale in honour of Prince Takamatsu in the category of architecture, Japan 

2017 RIBA Gold Medal

2021 UIA Gold Medal