Rafael Moneo in Five Buildings

To mark the most recent recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, explore five key buildings from the Spanish architect's career

By Royal Institute of British Architects

Auditori de Barcelona, Barcelona (2011) by Photographer: Montserrat RubioRoyal Institute of British Architects

"Rafael Moneo is one of the most transformative architects of his generation."   
Hashim Sarkis, Curator of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale

At an early age, Moneo was interested in philosophy and fine art but it was the influence of his father, an industrial designer, that directed him to a career in architecture. 

Auditori de Barcelona, Barcelona (2011) by Photographer: Montserrat RubioRoyal Institute of British Architects

"Few architects have built so extensively on both sides of the Atlantic as Rafael Moneo."
RIBA president Paul Hyett, 2003 

After graduating from Madrid University School of Architecture in 1961, he worked with the Danish architect Jørn Utzon on the design of Sydney Opera House. He further developed an interest in classical architecture after studying at the Spanish Academy in Rome before returning to Madrid in 1965 to set up his own office.

Murcia Town Hall, Murcia (2012) by Photographer: David CabreraRoyal Institute of British Architects

“Architecture is important as a part of history, but also as a critical discipline.”  Rafael Moneo

The history and theory of architecture is as important to Moneo as the practice. Teaching and writing has been a big aspect of his career. His awards include the Pritzker Prize in 1996 and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2003. His success lies in creating architecture that contributes to the fabric of the city, strongly rooted in their place. 

Atocha Railway Station, Madrid (1991) by Photographer: Paolo RosselliRoyal Institute of British Architects

Atocha Station, Madrid, Spain

Moneo enlarged and modernised Atocha Station in 1983, making it four times bigger. He remodelled the historical roof and created a more efficient local commuter train station, bus interchange and parking lot. The building is distinguished by its circular lantern-esque entrance hall and its pillared concourse, high ceilings and flat roof.

Atocha Railway Station, Madrid (1991) by Photographer: Paolo RosselliRoyal Institute of British Architects

The station continued to expand from 1984 to 2012 due to the urban growth and needs of Madrid. More recently, an extension was added to allow faster and more efficient movement from and to the trains. Colour is an important feature within the station, signifying the different stages of growth. 

Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro a Mallorca (Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation), Palma (2002) by Photographer: Tim BentonRoyal Institute of British Architects

Pilar & Joan Miró Foundation, Palma de Mallorca, Spain

The Miró Foundation consists of three different architectural spaces, including the artist’s studio designed by Josep Josep Lluís Sert from 1956 and the main headquarters for the foundation designed by Moneo. This building was constructed following the donation of land by Miro’s widow in 1992.

Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro a Mallorca (Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation), Palma: Edifici Moneo (2002) by Photographer: Tim BentonRoyal Institute of British Architects

The main Foundation building is made up of two closely linked concrete structures, providing a designated setting in which art and architecture is integrated. It preserves the land around Miró's original studio, from the local urban development, which Moneo has managed to mask and manage. 

Fundacio Pilar i Joan Miro, Palma de Mallorca (2008) by Photographer: Ruth KamenRoyal Institute of British Architects

The headquarters contain an exhibition space, a library, an auditorium, offices, a shop and a café. Artwork drawing upon Miró’s collection can be found around the building, including this ceramic mural  based on a sketch for the 1947 Cincinnati mural painting.

Auditori de Barcelona, Barcelona (2011) by Photographer: Montserrat RubioRoyal Institute of British Architects

L'Auditori, Barcelona, Spain

One of Barcelona’s premier music venues, L'Auditori, is situated in a busy urban development. One of its key characteristics is the acoustics, blocking out any noise from outside but also creating a unique sensory atmosphere inside. The layout of the building is compact, with a music school and three concert halls. These different spaces sit around a central courtyard containing a monumental cubic glass lantern, decorated with artwork by Pablo Palazuelo.

Auditori de Barcelona, Barcelona (2011) by Photographer: Montserrat RubioRoyal Institute of British Architects

Its exterior – clad with reinforced concrete and inlaid with industrial corten steel in a structural grid – creates a solid compact form. The elegant interior stands in complete contrast to the exterior with an arrangement of cork overlaid with rich maple to absorb any unwanted noise. 

Murcia Town Hall, Murcia, Spain

Situated in Plaza del Cardenal Belluga, the historical centre of Murcia, Moneo has built a modern institutional building opposite two religious buildings of strong historical tradition: the 16th century cathedral and the Episcopal Palace from 1768.  Take a 360 view of the Plaza here.

Murcia Town Hall, Murcia (2012) by Photographer: David CabreraRoyal Institute of British Architects

The building was designed to complement its location, using brick and a native sandstone typical of the region of Murcia. The order of the columns reference a musical score and a glass balcony breaks the symmetry, providing a space in which the mayor can address the city. 

View of the Audrey Jones Beck BuildingThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, US

The Audrey Jones Beck Building is part of a museum campus, home to three art collections. The first building was designed by William Ward Watkin in 1924 with extensions added to the original Greek Neoclassical building during the 20th century. This included two extensions by the German born American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and a sculpture garden by the American landscape architect Isamu Noguchi.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas: (1998) by Architect: Rafael Moneo Valles (1937-)Royal Institute of British Architects

Rafael Moneo designed the most recent extension, the Audrey Jones Beck Building, which opened in 2000. Named after its patron, it features galleries for temporary exhibitions and display spaces for the Museum’s collections of ancient art, European art, photography, prints and drawings, and American art to the mid-20th century.

The Light Inside (1999) by James TurrellThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Moneo extension is connected to the Mies van der Rohe building via an underground tunnel containing artwork by James Turrell

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles (2009) by Photographer: Peter SheppardRoyal Institute of British Architects

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, US

This Postmodern cathedral was built to replace the severely damaged 1876 Cathedral of Saint Vibiana following the 1994 earthquake. The building can accommodate a congregation of 3000 and the land around the cathedral offers a unique public space to the community.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles (2009) by Photographer: Peter SheppardRoyal Institute of British Architects

With a coloured reinforced concrete façade, you enter by the side of the altar. The modernist interior features angular wooden pews and steel chandeliers. 

Credits: Story

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All images are from RIBA Collections unless listed. 

Image: Pilar & Joan Miró Foundation, Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Rights: Tim Benton/ RIBA Collections
Image: Cincinnati Mural - Pilar & Joan Miró Foundation, Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Rights: Ruth Kamen / RIBA Collections
Image: Auditori de Barcelona. Barcelona. Rights: Montserrat Rubio / RIBA Collections
Image: Atocha Railway Station, Madrid. Rights: Paolo Rosselli / RIBA Collections
Image: Murcia Town Hall, Murcia. Rights: David Cabrera / RIBA Collections
Image: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles. Rights: Peter Sheppard / RIBA Collections

 Curation and Interpretation by RIBA Public Programmes.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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