Spanish Art

XXI Century: Rafel Moneo (1937)

Rafael Moneo is a Spanish architect who is highly celebrated both by the general public and those in the Spanish architecture industry. This is proven in the numerous, prestigious prizes that Rafael Moneo has won during his career as an architect.

Rafel Moneo (1937-Present)

Spanish Art - Rafael Moneo

Rafael Moneo was born in 1937 in the town of Tudela which is South of Pamplona, Spain. However, he studied in Madrid at the Technical University of Madrid in the school of architecture. It was from this university that Moneo received his degree in 1961. After this, Rafael Moneo worked in the office of another Spanish architect, Francisco Javier Saénz de Oiza. In 1962, Moneo spent a year in Denmark working with the designer of the Sydney Opera House, Jorn Utzon.

In 1963, Moneo received a grant to go and study at the 'Academia Española' (Spanish Academy) in Rome which would shape his architecture in the years to come. On his return to Spain, Rafael Moneo began his first teaching job at the 'Escuela de Arquitectura de Madrid' (School of Architecture in Madrid).

Many people will have now studied with this Spanish architect as Rafael Moneo pursued his career as a lecturer in architecture across the world, including at Harvard University where he worked as the Chairman of the Havard Graduate School of Design. Thanks to his work as a teacher, Rafael Moneo was made the Academic Numerary for the San Fernando Academy for Fine Arts in Madrid and was made an Honoury Doctor of Technology by the Royal Institute of Technology of Stockholm.

Spanish Art - Rafael Moneo

Rafael Moneo has designed and created several buildings both in Spain and abroad. Some of his latest work includes the expansion of the Museo del Prado in Madrid and the expansion of the Bank of Spain. In the USA, Moneo designed the Cathedral of Our Lady of Los Angeles in the city of Los Angeles as well as the Davis Art Museum in Massachusetts. Moneo is therefeore a testament to the spread of the architecture of the Spanish abroad.

His most famous work is probably the Kursaal Palace in the Spanish seaside town of San Sebastian in northern Spain. This building unites abstract elements with elements of nature. This is echoed in its position between the shore and the town. Although it was met with some controversy at first, it has now become a beacon of the city.

It was for the Kursaal Palace that Rafael Moneo won the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture in 2001. Rafael Moneo had also won the Pritzker Prize in 1996 for his architecture, as well as receiving the Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2003. These are just some of the seventeen awards he won for his unique style of Spanish architecture from 1992 to 2006.

As a learned man, Rafael Moneo likes to use straight lines and geometrical shapes in his buildings which are mirrored throughout. After his trip to Denmark, Moneo adapted his style to combine Scandinavian materials and techniques with designs from the 1970s and 1980s, rather than following some of the more central and southern European architecture routes. His buildings are built to last and to withstand the elements; his favourite materials being brick and stone.

Spanish Art - Rafael Moneo

Some people have said that Moneo is also a Spanish architect who can incorporate history itself into his buildings. This is because Rafael Moneo believed that the design of a building depended entirely on its location, the history of the place and its function in the future. Hence, every case is different and so must be treated individually.

Some of his buildings and pieces which you can see in Spain include the Villahermosa Palace in Madrid, the National Museum of Roman Art in Mérida, and of course, The Kursaal Palace in San Sebastian.

© Spanish Arts 2011