|In early December 2003 luminaries of the local and international art and architecture communities gathered in the John Moffat building at Wits to honour and celebrate the life and works of one of the great thinkers and architects of our time – Amancio d'Alpoim Miranda
At a graduation ceremony on 10 December, the inimitable Dr Guedes was awarded his second Honorary Doctorate Degree. This event was followed by an inspiring two-day symposium and exhibition attended by friends, family, colleagues, admirers, present and past students from around the world.
Dr Guedes, more affectionately known as Pancho, is an architect, sculptor, painter, philosopher, teacher, and writer. He has created and inspired with unsurpassed exuberance for over fifty years.
Pancho was trained at the University of the Witwatersrand where he drew and painted furiously until he could no longer separate painting, sculpture and architecture. He then worked from his studio in Rua de
Nevala, Lourenço Marques, providing a sanctuary for local artists, writers, and musicians, and designing and building over five hundred works of architecture in Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and Portugal. Obsessive, controversial, erudite and devoted, he was teacher, patron and mentor to some of Mozambique's finest artists, including Malangatana Ngwenya (artist and cultural ambassador), and Luis Bernardo Honwana (writer, politician and retired Director of UNESCO for Southern Africa).
In 1975, after the Mozambican revolution, Pancho accepted the post of Head of the Department of Art and Architecture at Wits. His notorious reign provided staff and students alike with an unprecedented quality of imagination and freedom of expression in what Revel Fox has referred to as an "exciting and notable epoch, and high point of architecture anywhere".
Upon his retirement from Wits in 1990, Pancho moved to Portugal with his wife,
Dori. He now lives and works from his home near the tiny village of Eugaria in
Sintra. At the age of seventy-eight, Pancho is currently busy with, amongst others, renovations and additions to a fifteenth-century retirement home, and a new Foundation for artists in Mozambique, commissioned by
Speaking at this auspicious occasion were some of the most noteworthy scholars and professionals ever to grace the foyer of John Moffat at a single moment in time. The atmosphere was festive, philosophical and nostalgic, with tributes ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Speakers recalled inspirational moments with Pancho that provided true insight into what it was like to live, study and work with this exceptional man, including such gems as "being an architect is like being lost in a haunted house".
Pancho himself, with his customary derisive humour, referred to the event as "two days of great exaggeration", and delighted the audience by presenting each speaker with two provocative brass figurines in a little black box – a symbol of his appreciation of all the "nice things" that were said.
The architecture community expresses its gratitude to Lonka
Guedes, Pedro Guedes, Lindsay Bremner, Herbert Prins, Peter Rich, Heather Dodd, Lewis Levin, Leon
Krige, Yusuf Patel, Marilyn Martin and Stanley Saitowitz for initiating and organising this joyful and fitting celebration.