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JOSÉ RAFAEL MONEO VALLÉS
 
 
 
 
  Name José Rafael Moneo Vallés
     
  Born May 9, 1937
     
  Died  
     
  Nationality Spain
     
  School  
     
  Official website www.moneobrock.com
     
 
BIOGRAPHY
   

José Rafael Moneo Vallés is one of the most influential architects
in Spain today. His career has served as a model for numerous
younger architects both in Spain and abroad. Moneo was known
in architectural circles since the 1970s not only for his role as
an architect but also for his theoretical contributions to the
avant-garde publication originating in Barcelona, Arguitecturas
bis, and his work with Peter Eisenman’s Institute for Architecture
and Urban Studies. He was relatively unknown outside these
spheres, a condition suffered by almost all Spanish architects of
that time. His name became more familiar to American audi-
ences when he was appointed chair of Harvard’s Graduate
School of Design in 1985. This coincided with a period of in-
tense activity at his “atelier” in Madrid. The acceptance of a
position at Harvard reflects Moneo’s deep commitment to teach-
ing and investigation that has consistently lived alongside his
love for building.

In Rafael Moneo’s subtle and varied oeuvre, the importance
of the site, the context, and the mission of the building all inform
the resultant structure. His projects display a deep understanding
of the craft of building. His apparent rejecting of “type” necessi-
tates a careful reading of his buildings that have multiple layers

of interpretation. Moneo’s buildings must be understood on
the basis of their elements rather than their major forms, The
underlying concerns and interests are ever present, but their
formal expression takes on a variety of images.

One of Moneo’s first projects that gained national attention
was an apartment building (1970) along the Urumea River in
San Sebastian, Spain, in collaboration with the three architects
of Marquet, Unzurriinzaga, and Zulaica. There is a clever juxta-
position between the horizontal bands of windows and the verti-
cal pull of the curved bays. The building is located on the river-
bank in a prominent position. Its pitched roof and dark brick
respond to the neighboring buildings.

‘The Bankinter building (1977), offices and banking facilities
located on a main axis in Madrid, is still considered one of the
architect's most outstanding works. It is sited behind an existing
small palace on a difficult plot. The architect maintains a princi-
pal facade parallel to the street, almost forming a backdrop for
the smaller mansion in the forefront. The irregular shape of the
building fits the site neatly, and the careful use of brick and the
oversize frieze panels on the upper story seem to pay homage
to history and especially to the works of Louis Sullivan,

The National Museum of Roman Art (1980-85) in Mérida,
Spain, launched Moneo’s international reputation. Although
immediately inspiring to all who enter the main exhibition space
with its dramatic arches, this building has many complexities.
The museum was constructed of brick, in the spirit of Roman
building, and i fits within the modest scale of the city through
its careful handling of the different facades. Moreover, the build-
ing is in dialogue with the still-powerful remnants of ancient
Rome nearby. The exterior buttressed walls of the main hall

indicate the rhythm of the arches inside. The dimensions, color,
and positioning of the brick grant a sense of permanence and
timelessness to the space. Elevated walkways allow the visitor to
view the works on the upper level while experiencing the whole
nave. The light that enters through the windows at the roofline
adds to the drama of the main hall and intensifies the visitor's
perception of space.

The Kursaal Cultural Center (1999) in San Sebastian, Spain,
comprises two enormous glass cubes that contain performing
arts facilities, cultural facilities, and the necessary support ser-
vices. The extensive use of glass appears as a departure from the
more traditional materials that Moneo used in the past. How-
ever, his choice is clearly understood when one witnesses the
dramatic change from solid mass in daylight to glowing cubes
at night. In this project, he could have continued the normal
cityscape of San Sebastian right to the beach site. However, from
the placement of the Kursaal Cultural Center and the formal
solutions adopted, it becomes apparent that the desire was to
highlight the natural attributes of the site—the beach, the river,
and the sea. The simple yet bold forms employed, the emphasis
on materials, and the response to the site and context all illustrate
ongoing, deep concerns of the architect that are present in all
his works.

Moneo was increasingly called on for international museum
commissions, including the Pilar and Joan Miré Foundation
(1993) in Palma de Mallorca; the Davis Museum (1993) at
Wellesley College, Massachusetts; the Museums of Modern Art
and Architecture (1997) in Stockholm, Sweden; and the Audrey
Jones Beck Building (2000) of the Museum of Fine Arts in
Houston, Texas.

Among other noteworthy projects throughout Moneo’s ca-
reer are the headquarters (1988) for the Prevision Espafiola in-
surance company in Seville, the new Atocha Train Station
(1992) in Madrid, a city hall (1998) in Murcia, and the Our
Lady of the Angels Cathedral of Los Angeles (2002).

MarTHA THORNE

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE
   

Born in 1937 in the village of Tudela in the Navarre region of
northern Spain. Studied architecture at the Polytechnic Univer-
sity of Madrid; received degree in 1961. Practical experience
gained in the ateliers of Spanish architect Francisco Javier Saenz
de Oiza and the Danish architect Jorn Uzon before opening his
own office. Spent two years as a fellow at the Spanish Academy in
Rome. Taught in the 1960s in Madrid, until offered a tenured
position at the School of Architecture in Barcelona.

Taught at Cooper Union (1976-77) and Princeton Univer-
sity (1982). Appointed Chair of Harvard’s Graduate School of
design in 1985, a position he fulfilled until 1990. Received nu-
merous prizes, including the Brunner Memorial Prize of the
American Academy of Arts and Letters (1993) and the Pritzker
Architecture (1996).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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