Nieto-Sobejano | Spain

Medal Awarded: 2015


Jury 2015

Rainer Mahlamäki, Finland Simo Freese, Finland Wessel de Jonge, The Netherlands Dorte Mandrup–Poulsen, Denmark

“The work of Nieto and Sobejano demonstrates how an architect’s cultural background can inspire architecture of outstanding quality and expressive power. Nieto and Sobejano’s work has a primal energy ranking it among the world’s most compelling statements and groundbreaking achievements in architecture.”
An excerpt from the statement of the Medal jury 2015

  • Aragón Convention Centre Zaragoza / Spain, 2006–08

Fuensanta Nieto (1957–) Enrique Sobejano (1957–)

Creative collaborators since the early 1980s, Nieto and Sobejano are renowned for the great variety of their portfolio, although their best-known works are galleries and museums. Employing a team of forty, Nieto Sobejano Architects has offices based in Madrid and Berlin. The duo has received abundant professional recognition, including the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Their work has also been exhibited at the Venice Biennale and at MoMa in New York. Both architects divide their time between creative assignments and lecturing at European University of Madrid and the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK).

The architectural philosophy of Nieto and Sobejano is strongly rooted in the culture and history of their homeland. Both have ranked among Spain’s leading architects since 1985. Enrique Sobejano has worked as an architect since graduating from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia University in New York in 1983. He is professor at the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK), where he holds the chair of Principles of Design. He has been a visiting critic and lecturer at various international universities worldwide. From 1986 to 1991 he was co-director of the architectural journal ARQUITECTURA, published by the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid. He chairs and participates in international conferences and juries and is a founding partner of Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos.

Fuensanta Nieto has worked as an architect since graduating from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia University in New York in 1983. She is a founding partner of Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos and a professor at the Universidad Europea de Madrid. Fuensanta Nieto lectures on architecture and participates in juries and symposia at various institutions around the world. From 1986 to 1991 she was co-director of the architectural journal ARQUITECTURA, published by the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid.

Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos was founded in 1985 by Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano and has offices in Madrid and Berlin.

The outstanding quality of Nieto and Sobejano’s work is essentially rooted in traditional, widely-recognized values in architecture. They are masters of light, creating clean, crisply resonating sequences of spaces. Their outstanding professionalism shows in their talent for stripping spaces of all superfluous, distracting elements. Their strong sense of structure and its innovative variation is beautifully expressed in works such as the Contemporary Art Center (Córdoba, Spain, 2013), where clean geometrical concrete surfaces form sequences of nuanced interiors, the wall structures evoking an inventive architectural identity that is completely unique to this building. A heightened sense of structure and robustness is similarly foregrounded in another of their major projects, the Auditorium and Convention Centre of Aragon Expo (Zaragoza, Spain, 2008).

Nieto and Sobejano always prioritize the environment when designing. In their winning competition entry for the Arvo Pärt Centre (Laulasmaa, Estonia, 2014), they have adapted their philosophy to Nordic latitudes and a northern boreal setting. History and climate likewise inspired the subterranean design of the Museum & Research Centre Madinat Al Zahra (Córdoba, Spain, 2009), which blends subtly with the flat plains surrounding it. The Jury noted that Nieto and Sobejano have enjoyed a rising career path that in many respects brings to mind Alvar Aalto. “Their portfolio is varied and instantly recognizable, maintaining outstanding standards of creative excellence, informed by a philosophy of respect for human life and the environment. Nieto & Sobejano proudly carry on a tradition of humanism in architecture,” stated the chairman, Rainer Mahlamäki. The jury further commented that Nieto and Sobejano restore faith in the adaptability of contemporary western architecture, also answering the contemporary demand for sustainability and ecological sensitivity.

Their major works include the Madinat al-Zahra Museum, the Moritzburg Museum, the San Telmo Museum, the Zaragoza Congress Centre, the Joanneum extension in Graz, and the Contemporary Art Centre in Córdoba. Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos currently have projects in Germany, Spain, Austria, Estonia, Morocco, China, United Kingdom and France.


© Alvar-Aalto Medal 2018