Obituary : Pancho Miranda Guedes 1925-2015


It is with deep sadness and a profound sense of loss that Architect Africa records the passing of one of Africa’s most significant and best-loved architects, Amâncio d'Alpoim Miranda Guedes.

Born in Portugal in 1925, Pancho’s teaching and work influenced the thinking and lives of generations of architects, artists, writers and students. As an architect, painter, sculptor, provocateur and academic, he taught us how to see the world with empathy and curiosity. He lived both the joy and the constant quest of artistic creation.

Trained at the University of the Witwatersrand, Pancho worked from his studio in Maputo (then Lourenco Marques) until 1975, creating and designing buildings in Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and Portugal. After the Mozambican revolution he lived in exile in Johannesburg where he was professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at Wits. Later Pancho lived, painted, and practiced architecture at his home near Sintra in Portugal.

His work over the last half century has consistently expressed his love of life and thoughtfulness in creating spaces and structures that inspire, reflect, affect and comfort their inhabitants. A passage from his manifesto entitled "Architects as Magicians, Conjurers, Dealers in Magic Goods, Promises, Potions, Spells. Myself as Witch Doctor." still expresses this quality and originality:

"The mechanical and abstract rigours of our various systems and styles appear to be concerned with taking away, disguising, obliterating the evidence of our whole selves. These self imposed systems do not deal with people and life, they asphyxiate by growing inwardly into themselves.

We must become technicians of the emotions, makers of smiles, tear jerkers, exaggerators, spokesmen of dreams, performers of miracles, messengers; and invent raw, bold, vigorous and intense buildings without taste, absurd and chaotic, to invent an architecture the size of life. Buildings shall yet belong to the people, architecture shall yet become real and alive, and beauty shall yet be warm and convulsive."

In December 2003 Pancho was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree by the University of the Witwatersrand.

Visit Pancho's website.

See also: 30 Minutes with Pancho (2003)