Rafael Moneo has been honored as the beneficiary of the Golden Lion Awards for Lifetime Achievement, a renowned beneficiary that will be bestowed to the 83-year-old Spanish architect, critic, and educator to start the seventeenth edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Recognized by Hashim Sarkis, the curator of the 2021 Architectural Biennale, Moneo is credited for being “one of the most transformative architects of his generation”. The Golden Lion marks the newest achievement to Moneo’s considerable trophy chest among others, the Rolf Schock in Visual Arts (1993), the Pritzker Architecture Prize (1996), the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (2003) to name some.

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 2021 Venice Biennale awarded to Rafael Moneo - Sheet1
Rafael Moneo ©Centenary Roca

Many Roles | Golden Lion Awards

Born in the northern Spanish city of Tudela in 1937, Moneo has been based in Madrid since 1965 when he set up his eponymous studio, Rafael Moneo Arquitecto, and started teaching at Escuela Técnica Superior of Madrid. From 1985 through 1990, Moneo filled in as the executive of the Architecture Department of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. In 1997, he was chosen as an individual from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Spain.

The Golden Lion for lifetime accomplishment is just befitting for the architect who participated in the Giudecca lodging undertaking of 1983, who won the competition for a new Cinema Palace at the Lido di Venezia in 1991, and who has drawn numerous lessons for architecture from Venice.

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 2021 Venice Biennale awarded to Rafael Moneo - Sheet2
Remarks on 21 Works ©Nail Booksellers

As a practitioner, through the expansive array of his innovative designs, like the Kursaal Auditorium, The Prado Museum, the Atocha Train Station, and the Los Angeles Cathedral, he has featured the ability of every architectural project to resonate with the contingencies of the contextual environment, the site, and program while transcending them.

As a critic of the contemporary scene, he has composed on arising wonders and key projects and has established some of the absolute dialogues on the current scenario of design with associates from around the world. 

As an educator, he has thoroughly guided several generations of designers towards architecture as a vocation. As a researcher, he has consolidated his visual ability and insightful afflictions to help rethink the absolute most accepted historical buildings with fresh perspectives. 

All through his long career, he has kept a poetic prowess, to align the forces of compositional architecture to express, shape but also endure. He has additionally been diligently dedicated to architecture as an act of building and reflected his vision in a series of books.

Rafael and his Vision

As a young learner, Moneo was more attracted to philosophy and painting rather than architecture, however, it was the influence of his father, an industrial designer that eventually led to him pursuing a practice in architecture. Moneo is well recognized for his vision as “timeless structures” that are merged effortlessly with the landscape while respecting the environment. 

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 2021 Venice Biennale awarded to Rafael Moneo - Sheet3
A serious search for expressive architecture, Rafael Moron ©Architectural Review

“I believe architecture schools must pay close attention to the contemporary scene. This helps to establish a productive dialogue within the profession.” – Rafael Moneo. The key he focuses, is not to overwork the drawing, freshness, and immediacy are the qualities sought after, which demand concentration, efficiency, and a sense of knowing when a drawing is complete. Having consistently blended his attention for design with insightful exploration and education, there is something estimated and mathematical about the works of Rafael Moneo. His buildings regularly include perfect, straight lines which run in a grid-like or parallel formations.

Moneo’s aspiration in Denmark roughly between 1961-1962 has made an impact on his future concepts and perceptions of architectural styles. By intertwining the contemporary patterns of the 70s and 80s with customary Nordic style and materials, Rafael Moneo has created his unique design concepts.

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 2021 Venice Biennale awarded to Rafael Moneo - Sheet4
2H pencil on tracing Merida Museum ©Stan Allen

“I never wanted to develop a language that you may use again and again from project to project. Every project is different. I don’t have a fear of not having a common language.” – Rafael Moneo By accepting wholeheartedly the significance of buildings enduring the trial of time, rather than being delivered, repeated, and obliterated, Rafael Moneo works to the philosophy of creating something for people in the future to respect, that will not go all through design. The new divulging of his augmentation for Madrid’s Prado Museum is a genuine illustration of this. Via cautious thought of the way that as an art gallery, the actual built-up must not divert from its interior, Moneo utilized basic lines in his contemporary augmentation to unobtrusively bring one of the city’s most established structures into the 21st century and inspire a timeless quality.

Popular Works | Golden Lion Awards

In 1968, he headed the magazine Arquitectura Bis, where many of his visionary writings were published. The National Museum of Roman Art built in 1986 in Mérida, Spain is one of his earliest projects, as well as other projects like Madrid Atocha railway station in 1992, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in 2002 in Los Angeles, and the Prado Museum Extension in 2007. Among his most popular works are the transformation of the Villahermosa Palace into the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum (1989-92), the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation in Palma de Mallorca (1987-1992), the Diagonal Building in Barcelona (1988-1993), the Museums of Modern Art and Architecture in Stockholm, Sweden (1994-98), the Kursaal Auditorium and Congress Center in San Sebastián (1991-1999), the Souks in Beirut (1996-2009), the Northwest Science Building for Columbia University (2007-2010), the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and Peretsman Scully Hall (2007-2013). 

Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 2021 Venice Biennale awarded to Rafael Moneo - Sheet5
Prado Museum Expansion, Madrid ©Michael Moran
Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 2021 Venice Biennale awarded to Rafael Moneo - Sheet6
Murcia Town Hall ©STIR World
Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 2021 Venice Biennale awarded to Rafael Moneo - Sheet7
Museum of Roman Art ©Guzman Lozano
Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, Los Angeles ©Michael Moran
Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, Los Angeles ©Michael Moran
El Greco Congress Center ©Aasaa Architecture
El Greco Congress Center ©Aasaa Architecture

To celebrate the Spanish architect, Sarkis, the curator has set up an exhibition inside the Book Pavilion at the Giardini, a determination of plastic models and meaningful pictures of the structures acknowledged by Moneo, that can be viewed as a response to the question,“ How will we live together ?” – the theme of the 2021 festival.


Dazzling eyes on the visual and literary, Divya seeks to express her understanding of design methodologies and prowess in writing. Architecture for her is a deep impression with a reflection of serene apprehension that yearns the timeless themes of love, solitude, joy, and nature.