HIGHLIGHT: ALVARO SIZA

HIGHLIGHT: ALVARO SIZA

Alvaro Siza, whose full name is Alvaro Joaquim de Meio Siza Vieira, was born on June 25, 1933 in the small coastal town of Matosinhos, just north of Porto, Portugal. Siza studied at the University of Porto School of Architecture from 1949 through 1955, completing his first built works (four houses in Matosinhos) even before ending his studies in 1954. That same year he opened his private practice in Porto.

The architecture of Alvaro Siza is a joy to the senses and uplifts the spirit. Each line and curve is placed with skill and sureness. Siza maintains that architects invent nothing, rather they transform in response to the problems they encounter. His enrichment of the world’s architectural vocabulary and inventory, over the past four decades, provides ample justification to present him with the 1992 Pritzker Architecture Prize, as well as the good wishes that he continues his transformations.

Siza Vieira’s very first professional project is  Casa de Chá da Boa Nova built on the rocks, between 1958 and 1963, just two feet from the water. Distinctive mid-century design features are evident in the lines and angles of the structure and massive tiled roof.  Among Siza’s earliest works to gain public attention was a public pool complex, Piscinas de Marés, he created in the 1960s for Leça da Palmeira, The structures consist of two natural pools filled with fresh sea water, designed and built between 1959 and 1973,  situated 1 km from Casa de Chá da Boa Nova.

Casa de Chá da Boa Nova
Piscinas de Marés

Siza’s first built work outside of his native country was  Bonjour Tristesse social housing project (1984), located in Berlin. Siza’s design offers a meaningful precedent in urban densification, demonstrating a delicate balance between contextual awareness, creative freedom, and progressive vision. Siza’s characteristic attention to spatial relationships and appropriateness of form are as germane to a single family residence as they are to a much larger social housing complex or office building. The essence and quality of his work is not affected by scale.

Bonjour Tristesse

Most of his best known works are located in his hometown Porto: except Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, the Faculty of Architecture (1987–93) and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (1997). Álvaro Siza was invited in the early 1990s to design the Serralves Museum project that took into consideration the specific characteristics of the physical setting and the need for integration within the surrounding landscape.

Faculty of Architecture
Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art

Like the early Modernists, his shapes, molded by light, have a deceptive simplicity about them; they are honest. They solve design problems directly. If shade is needed, an overhanging plane is placed to provide it. If a view is desired, a window is made. Stairs, ramps and walls all appear to be foreordained in a Siza building. That simplicity, upon closer examination however, is revealed as great complexity. Structure and architectural form in Siza’s buildings work in graceful harmony, such as the cultural institution and museum of Iberê Camargo Foundation (1995) and Portuguese National Pavilion (1998).

Iberê Camargo Foundation
Portuguese National Pavilion

If Post Modernism had not claimed the term, and distorted its meaning, Alvaro Siza’s buildings might legitimately have been called by that name. His architecture proceeds directly from Modernist influences that dominated the field from 1920 to 1970. We can see this in his religious architecture too. From Santa Maria Church de Canaveses in 1996, to the recent design of  the Church of Saint Jacques de la Lande in France. Materiality is signature in Siza’s work and is represented in both churches made of concrete.

Santa Maria Church de Canaveses
Church of Saint Jacques de la Lande

While Siza himself would reject categorization, his architecture, as an extension of Modernist principles and aesthetic sensibility, is also an architecture of various respects: respect for the traditions of his native Portugal, a country of time worn materials and shapes; respect for context; and finally, respect for the times in which today’s architect practices with all its constraints and challenges.

Mimesis Museum
China Museum Of Design Bauhaus Collection

Siza has been involved in numerous designs for public housing, public pools, universities and museums.  Some of them have reached the boarders of Asia, in South Korea with Mimesis Museum (2009), in collaboration with Castanheira & Bastai Arquitectos Associados and Jun Sung Kim. And in China with The Building on the Water (2014)and China Museum Of Design Bauhaus Collection (2018), in collaboration with Carlos Castanheira.

The Building on the Water

Source: https://www.pritzkerprize.com/

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