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1996 Leça Swimming Pools

Posted on 11 May 2009 by Alvaro

Leça Swimming Pools
Avenida da Liberdade
Leça da Palmeira
Portugal

Alvaro Siza 1966

piscina7 The project is situated along the coastal avenue, the mass of the building set below the road level to allow an uninterrupted view to the sea. The program includes two swimming pools, changing facilities and a cafe.

Because of the need to limit construction costs and to preserve the landscape, the project had to make a minimal intrusion into the existing terrain. Since a topographical survey was not available at the time, the architect spent days marking the location of the existing rock formations, to arrive at a design which would require the least blasting.

The large adults’ pool is bound by low concrete walls that extend into the sea and are complemented on three sides by the natural rock formations. The continuity of these walls with the existing topography and the level of the water in the pool which appears to be contiguous with the sea, create the illusion of a seamless transition between the man-made and natural. The children’s pool, further inland, is enclosed by a curvilinear wall on one side and sheltered from the rest of the site by massive rocks and a concrete bridge at its entrance. In a playful gesture, this bridge is set just low enough to discourage adults from passing under it.


The access to the swimming pools is by way of a pedestrian ramp, which leads down from the coastal highway. The visitor descends gradually, simultaneously losing sight of the horizon, into a maze of concrete walls, platforms and canopies of the shower stalls and changing facilities building. After passing through its long corridors, partially screened by the cabinet partitions, a path along a high wall leads back into the Atlantic light, but the water still remains hidden from view. A subtle play on the senses, this element seems to slice the landscape in two, leaving only sky visible above and the sea audible beyond. The composition of these elements as building proper is understood only from the perspective of the swimming pools, since from the road they appear as an abstract figure, a series of carvings into the landscape.

Many of the materials of the swimming complex had already been used by Siza at Boa Nova and in other early projects, but here they achieve an unusual level of homogeneity: the rough concrete, of a slightly cooler hue than the rock formations, smooth and washable concrete panels for the pavement, Riga wood carpentry, and green copper roofs, which seen from the coastal avenue attain a color similar to the pools.

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1994 Aveiro Library

Posted on 09 May 2009 by Alvaro


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2317385468_c11a41150dCampus Universitário de Santiago
3810-193 Aveiro
Portugal

The library plays a central role in the organisation of the university campus situated on the edge of the city of Aveiro. A free-standing curving wall characterises the western façade and expresses the reinforced concrete structure of the building.

This baffle admits reflected light while a continuous horizontal cut at the third level assures (for those seated) a visual connection across the sait marshes extending to the horizon.

All electrical and air-conditioning services are integrated into the perimeter shelving system at each floor allowing the ceilings to be left uncluttered and spatially continuous with the vertical voids which traverse the interior spaces. This configuration also permits the spatial continuity of the double curvature of the ceiling at the top floor.

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1977 Quinta da Malagueira

Posted on 08 May 2009 by Alvaro



evora2032Between 1973 and 1977 , Álvaro Siza designed three housing projects that together form a defining period in the architect’s early work. Two of these, Bouça and São Victor were low cost projects designed for the SAAL organization in Porto, the worker’s council that formed to address the severe housing conditions that existed in Portugal after the 1974 revolution.

Both projects were built on difficult inner city sites in the center of Porto to provide adequate housing and prevent the displacement of low-income citizens.

Malagueira, the third project, was designed as a suburban community on the outskirts of Évora, an old Roman town of about 40,000 that was the capital of the Alentejo region, located about 100 miles east of Lisbon. Bouça and São Victor are examples of limited infill building, (40 and 12 units respectively). Malagueira, by comparison, is a large,low-rise, high density complex of about 1200 dwellings built over a period of about 20 years on a 27 hectare site between two existing barrio communities.

All three projects demonstrate a design process for building in dense urban conditions that Siza characterizes as “forming a whole with ruins”. All three are made of similar dwelling types in which an architectural vocabulary of similar, sparse cubic forms is used to develop the geometry and repetitive order typical to most housing designs while at the same time achieving a high degree of architectural variety.

Prior to 1973, Siza was known for a series of small private commissions, including several houses, the Boca Nova restaurant, the Pinto & Sotto Maior bank at Oliveira de Azemis, and a swimming pool at Leça da Palimeira, a small community along the coast north of Porto. These buildings display a developed modernist style and clearly show Siza’s skill interpreting site conditions, his use of primary geometric forms, and the attention given to the selection of basic materials and careful detailing.

Siza’s housing, especially work done for the workers’ Councils that formed after 25 April 1974, was designed under very difficult political and economic conditions in a very contentious participatory process that made it almost impossible for the architect to function as a designer. Certainly the astringent, minimalist results of Bouça and São Victor are a product of this condition but they are also a testament to Siza’s skills using a few basic design strategies and elements to create a powerful collective result. The extreme angst surrounding the construction of Bouça and São Victor that seems to be part of the history of these two housing projects, lasted for many years as these buildings deteriorated over time, culminating with the demolition of São Victor and, happily, the final completion of the original design for Bouça in 2007. It was the experience of these two projects that form precedents and set the stage for Malagueira.

Siza was given the commission for Malagueira because of his experience with Bouça and São Victor. Housing conditions in Portugal were desperate at this time and the Évora City Council wanted to build new housing in the rolling landscape west of the old city along the road to Lisbon. The Évora program was quite different from the Porto work and the idea was to build a completely new satellite community that would eventually be owned by the residents in a cooperative organization. Siza objected to the title “social housing” pointing out that all housing is social but within the framework of a pressing national need for new housing, Malagueira was not thought of as a typical installation of subsidized social housing. Land was expropriated for a new community planned for about 1200 dwellings.

Two existing barrio communities, Santa Maria and Nossa Senhora da Gloria, had grown up along one of the radial roads leading out of the city, creating am east-west axis. A meandering stream running in a general north-south direction on this side of the city, passed between the two villages and this space was the site for the new community. Other traces of the former occupation of this area included the remains of an Arab bath, a water tank, some cork oaks, a school, 2 old windmills, and the old residence of Malagueirinha with an adjacent orange grove. A system of paths had developed over time as people walked to different destinations in this landscape between villages to shop, get water, or make the 35-minute walk to the center of Évora on the hilltop.

The gridiron organization of Santa Maria was the model for the layout of the new quarter forming a new street pattern of smaller fragments of a tartan grid of parallel rows of streets and alleys and back-to-back patio houses. The largest of these groups extends along the north edge of Santa Maria forming a long narrow zone opening to open public spaces along the stream. Other smaller fragments of the grid were attached to the ends of the original barrio, essentially enlarging the perimeter of the village. Still other groups were sited at different angles forming several separate neighborhoods responding to alignments suggested in the landscape. The meandering interstitial spaces between neighborhoods are part of the public open spaces that followed preexisting paths and other features in the landscape. These areas between built-up regular clusters of houses are used for community uses, shopping, parking, recreation, and pedestrian circulation.

A system of raised concrete aqueducts connects the separate residential clusters together and provides the infrastructure for water and electric distribution. Aqueducts were a feature of the Roman and later of the Renaissance era and remains of these are still visible in Évora. This established a precedent for a system of aqueducts to be used to distribute water in the new community. Raised channels made of exposed concrete block that are supported on columns forming a more-or-less continuous loggia structure that connects neighborhoods while servicing each house within the neighborhood clusters. The aqueduct system was justified on the basis of cost, but it also functions as a large-scale planning device that connects neighborhoods and forms public arcades defining entrances to groups of shops and other public facilities. Because it is built to the height of the roof of the second floor and is left as unfinished concrete, it provides visual and formal relief to the relentless, repetitive white walls of the dwellings.

The scale of Malagueira is much larger than the earlier Porto sites, but the basic 2-story dwellings are similar. In Bouça, 2-story maisonettes are combined back-to-back in 4-story, gallery-access building. The rows of dwellings in Malagueira, although they are only 2-stories high, share a similar back-to-back section concept with each facing a street. At São Victor, on a much smaller site, 2-story dwellings were used in an articulated row of individual houses with some defined exterior spaces front and rear.

The dwellings at Malagueira are patio or atrium types with an “ell”-shaped group of rooms on two sides of a small interior patio. There are two similar types, both built on an 8m x 12m plot, one with the courtyard in front and the other with the courtyard at the rear. Both have living, dining and kitchen spaces at the courtyard level with an interior stair leading to bedrooms and terraces above. The two types can be combined in several different ways resulting in different patterns of solid and void. This manipulation of the paired combinations is a key to the rich concatenated rhythm that is achieved with a pallet of only two dwelling types. Wall heights vary from entry gate height, to the second floor height to a vent wall that is perpendicular to the street and extends to the height of the second floor roof. This range of wall heights coupled with the alternating position of the patios and terraces results in a rich three-dimensional composition. The construction follows the topography so the houses step along the street as well as stepping perpendicular to the street. This further adds to the compositional variety. Seen from a distance, the houses seem to be taller than just 2 floors as they step up the contours giving the impression of a much denser, taller, terraced organization. The very limited pallet of doors and window shapes also vary in height with the contours furthering the concatenated organization of walls. The houses are designed to be added on to over time by the occupants so that they can begin as a simple two room house built on one level that can be transformed into a much larger dwelling with several bedrooms, multiple baths, and roof terraces. The incomplete quality of the evolving houses within the walled volume helps break down the strict repetition typical of most low cost housing.

Many comparisons have been made between Siza’s housing and Dutch and German siedlungen of the 1920’s and to some of the work of Adolf Loos. The use of flat roofs, white plaster exterior walls, the sparse application of windows and doors and the absence of decoration are all similar shared features. São Victor could be seen as a version of Oud’s Weissenhof row houses that have been inserted into an almost impossible site. Malagueira might be seen as Weisenhoff units facing the street on each side and backed up to each other in repetitive rows. The parallel rows of apartments with the rounded commercial ends at Bouça have similarities with Kiefhoek although Bouça is a 4-story high, gallery type. Bouça may have similarities to Mart Stam’s slabs, but the layered qualities of the section the use of colored walls on the upper floors, the complex section, upper terraces and the careful fitting of the building to the site are qualities quite different from the zeilenbau typology as used by Stam, and others. Loos’s early houses and his project for 20 terraced houses share many of the cubic, sparse qualities and the solid/void organization of Malagueira, but this unbuilt project was a proposal for a 4-story, point-access terraced slab. Other suggestions have been made that Malagueira was derived from vernacular Portuguese sources and rationalism. Siza, however, felt that his architecture grew from the context and from the economic and technical conditions of the time.

Unlike the Porto work, Malagueira has aged well over the 30 years of its occupation. Bouça has been completed and restored and is the product of a different residential model. Because Malaguiera was sponsored and financed and maintained by the city of Évora, and because the residents were living here under a combination of private and cooperative ownership, and rentals, the buildings have been well maintained, and for the most part, appear pretty much as they did when they were built. Of the 1100 dwellings that had been built by 1977, 60% were cooperatives, 35% rental and 5% privately owned. Financing was arranged so that houses could be owned after 25 years. The co-ops also controlled resale prices to limit speculation and sub-letting was not allowed. These and other rules limiting modifications to the original building contributed to a sense of well-being and a high level of maintenance.

There are some examples of the kind of “vernacularization” that inevitably goes on in a big housing project like this, especially one that is mostly occupant-owned. The painted wainscots and colored trim painted around doors and windows on some houses (an apparent attempt to capture the ambience of vernacular Alentejo building), the application of aftermarket accessories like roll-down shutters, door grilles, air-conditioning units (the sure sign of owner affluence), random electrical wiring, added street lights, retrofitted windows and the arbors and trellises that get built on the roof terraces are all signs of owner occupation but this is limited and have not seriously harmed the overall quality and maintenance of Malagueira. The graffiti that might have been tempting with all these white walls, and which are quite typical of most low-income housing, seem to be entirely missing here.

A more obvious problem with Malalgueira is the development and use of the interstitial spaces. The contrast between the highly structured organization of streets and houses and the more pastoral landscape of the meandering path of the stream is a seductive concept but in its unfinished state tends to read merely as leftover space. Some of the elements that have been built in this landscape, the pond, the open theater, the dam on the street, and the loggia formed in front of the shops by the aqueduct are obvious moves to inhabit the interstitial zone but ones that do not seem quite powerful enough to connect landscape and building. The curse of the suburban housing project has always been that it is so often disconnected from the needs of daily shopping; Malalgueira residents still seem destined to carry grocery bags on long walks along the original paths connecting places in the Alentejo landscape.

Project Quinta da Malagueira
Architect Siza, Álvaro
City Évora
Country Portugal
Address Av. da Malagueira, c. 2 km w. of Évora
Building Type Clustered low-rise
Row house
Number of Dwellings 1200
Date Built 1977-1998
Dwelling Types 2-4 BR courtyard houses
No. Floors 2
Section Type rowhouse
Exterior Finish
Materials plaster, conc., wood windows
Construction Type conc. frame, masonry walls
Ancillary Services parking, commercial, communal open spaces

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1964 Galician Museum of Art

Posted on 07 May 2009 by Alvaro


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450px-siza_konpostelanGalician Museum of Art

Rúa Ramón del Valle Inclán, 15704

Santiago de Compostela
Combining grand gestures with moments of intimacy, Alvaro Siza’s new Media Science building at the university of Santiago de Compostela reinterprets Mediterranean archetypes in an abstract synthesis of space and light.

One of Alvaro Siza’s most notable projects of the mid 1990s, was the Galician Museum of Art in the heart of Santiago de Compostela (AR October 1994). It marked an evolution in scale and programme and demonstrated a growing sensitivity in Siza’s handling of space and light. This most recent building sees him return to Santiago de Compostela, but instead of being locked into the medieval core, it forms part of the city’s university campus, joining a series of buildings in a park-like landscape. Dating from 1501, Santiago de Compostela’s university is one of the oldest in Spain, and this new building, for the Faculty of Media Science, represents the latest modest phase in the institution’s centuries-old evolution.

The university’s masterplan for the campus was initially based on the notion of a single interconnected megastructure, similar to the Free University of Berlin. But incremental additions, such as new student residences, gradually diluted this concept. When Siza came to the project he respected the existing overall geometry, but designed a detached building that completes and extends the original plan. The main component of the new faculty is a long, linear bar placed on an east-west axis that follows the alignment of the neighbouring Philology Faculty to the west. The bar acts as the fat spine of the building, with various clusters of spaces locked on to it, forming semienclosed patios that connect with the landscape and bring light into the interior. Transforming and reinterpreting an ancient archetype, Siza’s use of patios is by now a familiar device (for instance, the rectorate at Alicante University, AR March 2000). But it also draws on other more recent sources, such as Aalto and Scandinavian Modernism. Siza is fascinated by the way Aalto’s informal courtyards rework a Mediterranean form, so reinvigorating and reinventing it. Set midway along the main bar, the library forms the building’s conceptual and physical centre, thrusting out at right angles like the truncated prow of a ship. Hovering on squat pilotis, its mass is partly eroded so that you can walk underneath it to reach the main entrance on the south side. Like all of Siza’s buildings, the treatment of the exterior is characterized by restraint and impassiveness. Rising from a rusticated base of finely jointed honey-coloured granite, walls are solid and rendered with white stucco, in the Mediterranean tradition. The impervious white skin is ruptured by a handful of horizontal openings some shaded by thin overhangs, giving the elevations a curious beetle-browed effect.

As some critics have observed, Siza’s architecture resembles an ever-growing body of research, in which discoveries are gradually unearthed and elements crystallized. This research takes place across several scales, from the city down to the level of small details. Certain themes recur, such as the idea of a building as a sequence of topographical incidents, linked by ramps and levels. At Santiago de Compostela, this forms a key organizational device. Along the south side, the ground falls away in a shallow slope, with trees at its base. A ceremonial flight of steps and long ramp rise up from the street to converge on the main entrance. In summer, the green slope and steps are colonized by students, as informal extensions of the building.

Inside, the metaphor of building-astopography is restated by a spinal gallery that connects the various volumes. Airy and dignified, the gallery is bathed in a cool north light. A long ramp winds past a row of lecture halls to classrooms and studios at upper level. Circulation becomes a social event, as students throng through the tall gallery space. The row of lecture halls is terminated by a larger auditorium that projects out of the north side, similar in scale and form to the library on the south face. At the east end of the spine, a U-shaped conglomeration of spaces houses film, TV and radio studios served by stores, workshops and classrooms.

The building is essentially nougat of different sized volumes, sensitively reconciled to explore the potential for both grand gesture and human intimacy. The library, for instance, is a heroic double-height space, toplit by angular openings punched into the gently curved roof. Yet the upper level forms an almost domestically-scaled mezzanine for quiet study, poised above the main floor below.

Sequences of compression and expansion, controlled views and varying intensities of light are all subtly modulated and orchestrated to generate a compelling promenade architecturale. Light is reflected off predominantly hard or lustrous surfaces, giving the interior a cool luminosity. Materials such as white stucco, granite, and polished timber are chosen for their simplicity, climatic comfort and general robustness (crucial in a building that will endure heavy daily use). With its stone floor and plain walls, the spinal gallery is like an extension of the exterior, a blurred inside-outside realm. Careful attention is also paid to smaller scale elements, such as furnishings, railings, handles, and plinths, which have a spare, effortless elegance.

In their exploration of light, texture, movement and space, Siza’s buildings touch the senses in many ways. Diverse sources of inspiration are brought together in an abstract, imaginative unity with its own hierarchy and language. Yet Siza’s approach is not simply based on set of recurrent forms or characteristics, but a way of seeing, thinking and feeling about many things: building, climate, history, institutional ideals and patterns of use. Santiago de Compostela continues a fascinating evolution.

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1996 Church of Macro de Canaveses

Posted on 01 May 2009 by Alvaro


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igreja2Av. Dr. Manuel Pereira Soares 10 4630

Marco de Canaveses Portugal

The Church for Marco of Canaveses, is only a part of a religious complex that foresees an auditorium, the catechesis school and the house for the parish priest. The Santa Maria Church in Marco de Canavezes is part of an overall complex that, together with a planned Parish Center, will form a small urban square.It was the parish priest Father Nuno Higino’s personal decision to call on Siza, and to invest himself fully in this very ambitious project.
The proposed plan by Alvaro Siza, with the church playing a central role, will ensure that the other buildings will be in concordance with the pre-existing scale of the neighbourhood. The façade (17.5 x 17.5 square meter ) is in three sections with two projecting towers. The 10 meter high temporary grey steel doors will eventually be replaced by bronze doors. “The visit to the place already chosen had disturbed myself deeply: it was a very difficult place, with great quota differences, lofty to a highway with a lot of traffic. As if it was not enough, that area was marked by buildings of terrible quality.

The construction of this parochial center is also the construction of a place, in substitution of a scarp very accentuated. The church pronounces in two levels: a superior, of the assembly, and an inferior, of the mortuary chapel. As they show the access courses to the two quotas, they are decisively two spaces with different characteristics. The mortuary chapel is almost the foundation of the own church: it creates a stable quota, it fastens, so that the church can lean on. Besides, with their granite walls and the monastery, it establishes the distance in relation to the highway. This inhabited platform owed therefore to appear as “built nature.” But it is also very important the placement, in face of the main access, of the parochial center and of the parish priest’s residence. These volumes define a great “U” that opposes to a small “u” formed by the two towers, the one of the steeple and the one of the baptistery. It appears, like this, the necessary space for the great vertical volume of the facade. At the same time, it becomes possible a relationship with the constructions of small climbs that surround this acropolis. Like this, the churchyard is demarcated.

The initial reference was a construction that already existed, a residence for the third age, of a correct and ordinated architecture , located in the superior quota of the scarp and with a very significant extension in relation to the highway. Starting from this new level, everything else went pronouncing, resisting the complexity of the existent constructions and allowing the creation of a churchyard finally, open on the beautiful worth of Marco de Canaveses. Let us hope that new constructions don’t come her to lean on the terrible ones that already exist and stay opened, that is essential.

The great door of the church, with its ten meters of height, should exist in relation to this vast view. The entrance is made, usually, through a glass door, under the right tower, while the big door is only open in special circumstances. After the lateral movement of entrance, the perception of a low and long window, on the right side, that allows the view to the exterior. In that instant, if it doesn’t seat the diffuse light that arrives of the high openings in the wall curves and sloping to the, left: They see each other, still and immediately, it is worth it and the constructions in front. The window contradicts the withdrawal atmosphere that are habituated at a church and for this reason it generated controversy. The same with the placement of the statue of the Virgin, that is almost as high as the followers and is not agrees in pedestal. Though surprisingly, a theologian, very dear in Porto eulogized the respect for the actuais beginnings of the liturgy, that accentuate the function of mediation of the Virgin between God and the men and by consequence among men. Is facto the statue of Our Lady has an intermediate position: put in the extremity of the window and submited to a very intense light, it introduces the space of the altar, that who enters doesn’t notice immediately. Three steps elevate the plan of the celebration, that ended with two doors, for which enters clear light, filtered by a high chimney. This disposition dialogues with the light bath on the curve forms of the lateral limits of the apse and on the space of the church in general.

The natural illumination varies with the time, depending on the position of the sun, and it is going from the projection of the drawing of the ray of light to the silence of the aspersion: a great interval, rigorous and tangible. The assembly of all of the elements is, evidently, coherent. Though this order, characterized by some existent contradictions, it was built in a slow and laborious way. There were not pré-defined ideas, given by priori. What is now readable is the result of the decantation of certain reflections of the space, today so difficult, of the church. This difficulty is because of the a series of important alterations in the liturgy: think of the celebration of the mass, that now finds the priest turned to the assembly. Such a change transforms the carácter of the celebration entirely and it annuls the sense of traditional space organization, in their several forms and in its slow and permanent evolution. At the same time, this new condition doesn’t justify the interpretation of the church as auditorium. Almost all of the recent projects doesn’t deepen this aspect properly. It was indispensable, consequently, a reflection of the conditions, we could say functional, of the space of the church. However the discussions with the theologians put in evidence the contradiction that involves the several interpretations today. And so it is an unstable program, still to be solved. Though it was evident the need to create a projection of the celebrant, a communion with the assembly, without, unavoidably, if it created its own distance of any auditorium. For this reason I proposed, for the apse, curvatures no longer concave but convex. It is also in this case not a pré-conceived idea, immediately derived of the variation of the liturgy: it is an intuition, born of a series of demands, among the ones which the need to conserve the relationship among the objects and the movements that are part of the celebration.

In the space around the altar a series of elements that participate in the ritual exist: the pulpit, the own altar, the tabernacle, the chairs of the celebrants and the cross, the ones which slowly took form and they defined the space later, in the respect for the movements, pré-established, of the mass. Like this the church acquired form as a sculpture in negative, in which it went establishing continuity relationships and tension among several parts. The plan of the course that, in the inferior floor, links the exterior to the mortuary chapel is the result of the study of what happens in these spaces. It was decisive, in the reality, the knowledge of the meaning of the funeral in the area of Minho.

When I visited the wonderful crematory cemetery of the Dutch arquitecto Pieter Oud, I had the possibility to attend a funereal cerimony I verified that the atmosphere and the relationship of the people are decisively different from what happens in Portugal.

Here, during the funeral, the family and the close friends are very close to the deceased, while many other people, like neighbors stayed at a certain distance, naturally with smaller pain and emotion. It became necessary a sequence of spaces with different characteristics.

Also for this reason I thought of a monastery, in which the people would smoke, talk or eventually, why not, talk of businesses: it is a way to react to that certain discomfort at the encounter, so direct, with the problem of death. This reacção to the pain is not, for instance, in the funerals in Holland, during which it dominates the total silence. The monastery is followed by a first gallery, quite wide, marked by the entrance door, the wall curves and goes down by the apse. Few meters ahead it open up, to the left, another gallery that has, in the bottom, a vertical window from where you can see the highway again. I don’t know what is the connection between this window and the horizontal window of the superior level, but I have faith that the vertical position of the one that is in bass, in the embasament is owed in search of the necessary sensation of the weight, of the gravity. The course finishes at the mortuary chapel, that communicates with the first gallery thanks to a horizontal window.

The people that are in the interior have, the perception of the ones that enter or leave, exactamente as it happens in the superior level, it finishes like an opening that allows the view of the monastery. One returns then, once again, to the starting point, with the noise of the water of a source. In the yard is imposed with private relief the presence of a stairway, that leads again to the superior level. In this project, the unit is checked by the courses that finish in the starting point, circularly. The final sensation is really of a closed place, well delimited.

It always impressed me the obsessive invitation to the meditation that we feel in most of the churches. In fact the openings are frequently put to such height to doesn’t allow look at the exterior, at the same time that the use of the stained glass windows eliminates the continuity and the transparency. ON the other hand, I think that the recent modifications in the liturgy contrast with this vision of closed and segregated space. When I began to study the program, I quickly understood the enormous reach of this rupture in the secular continuity of the tradition. Though I think that this aspect doesn’t have any parallel one in the real life of the Church, in the relationship between the church and the society. For this reason, and in spite of the necessary adaptations, I tried to preserve the continuity with the tradition. And so, observing the carácter of this church sincerely, it seems evident that its conception is substantially conservative. This intention emerges with clarity of the drawing of the plant that in fact expresses a rigid axialidade.

Contextualy, the verticality of the interior is very strong. In fact, in spite of the ship being ofasquare section, the articulation certain elements, such as the two openings behind the altar, it gives the sence of elevation. Several discussions would come to reinforce this continuity idea with the canonic espaciality . The theologians’ pieces of advice were constant and decisive. And so for instance, the baptistery, initially put beside the altar, was later deviated close to the entrance, so that announced the presence of the assembly. Besides, once of the procession of the celebrants has to travel the longitudinal axis of the church, it became necessary the presence of a door, in the wall it curves.

The ritual of the celebration demands, evidently, certain options in the treatment of the space and in the organization of the courses. On some of the interior walls tile was used. It was necessary a resistant baseboard, that obviated the problems of the cleaning and of the maintenance. In the first moment I had thought wasn’t the best about a covering in wood. But this choice soon I thought, because it would have annulled the verticality of the wall and overcoat because the reflection of the light would have been inadequate.Then I thought then about the tile that, produced artistically, conserves a surface slightly irregular; that allows peculiar reflexes of light, while the committees, that are left empty, manifest a sensitive presence.

The continuity with tow and the unit of the color is cut for that presence and for those reflexes. In a first phase, the tile flanked the whole church; then, the wall curves to arrive at the soil, the solution the problem of contact with the doors, was its limited use. One of the objectives that one could not abdicate consisted exactly in avoiding that the details were so evident that it competed with the structure of the space. I worked intensely in the relationship, encounter and transition of the materials. The tile has the function of solving the problem of the continuity, lessening the existent ruptures. The way to solve the problem of the continuity. Lessening the existent ruptures. The way which these three materials are linked - wood, tile and tow - is very special, and there are probably things, that I cannot describe, that appeared to me by the experience of the space, during the construction. In the chapel baptismal I have intention of drawing - inside the wall of the access - illustrations with about six meters of height, deformed according to the perspective. These characters, that together represent Christ’s baptismo, they are of a decisive importance, in this space exceptional, high and narrow, and they will be stylized in way the one that don’t result excessive. They will have a very strong presence, in a dark blue or in black, in way they emphasize her/it in the white tile. I already finished the drawings, but I didn’t have courage of giving begin to the accomplishment: I still have need of time.

The elements that should be drawn are still many.

The own cross was only put after the inauguration. In a first phase I had thought about a cross in wood, with a work of the outlines not very well defined and with volumes, that suggested Christ’s illustration. Then the drawing passed by many other phases, much more simplified, to define, finally, in a cross in that, in the encounter between vertical and horizontal, in the form of the vertical and in the vibrations of the wood, it is immediately evident the human presence. Now I want to cover it with a sheet of gold. The cross was put in a position sincerely gaged, close to the altar, and with light. The sheet gold will give, then, a larger dematerialization and, not demanding protagonism, will react imprevisivelmente with the space. Returning to the exterior, it is noticed a solid presence of the granite that, in this area, is one of the most important elements in the landscape, in the Nature and in the construction. In this project, the platform in granite appears as necessary counterpoint to the lightness and a great geometric conciseness of the white volume. In some hours of the day the church almost seems it dematerializes: some times it seems to disappear, other times in other occasions, it almost stands out violently. And so it was necessary a base that arrested it to the soil.

I had already been in Turkey, where I had studied the Pré-Columbus constructions, that evidently left the mark in certain volumes so accentuated.

Completion 10-1996
Floor area/size 3477 m2
Architect Alvaro Siza Vieira
Associate architect Edite Rosa
Structural engineer Eng. João Maria Sobreira
Services engineer Raul Serafim & Associados
Structural engineer Humberto Vieira
Structural engineer João Araújo Sobreira
Structural engineer Jorge Silva
Services engineer José Sousa Guedes
Associate architect Rolando Torgo
Client Parochial Centre of Marco de Canavezes
Project ID 1122
Latitude/Longitude 41°11′02N -9°51′07E

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1995 Faculty of Architecture

Posted on 30 April 2009 by Alvaro


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faup4Via Panorámica
Porto
Portugal

Alvaro Siza 1995

The buildings of the Porto architecture school are set on a terraced site high above the estuary of the Douro River. This area is bordered on three sides by highway exits and by Campo Alegre street, and on the east by the former estate of Quinta da Povoa - the site of the architecture school before its expansion, which houses an earlier project by Siza - the first-year Carlos Ramos Pavilion.

Adjacent to the rusticated stone wall of the estate, the new faculty buildings stretch out along two vertices of a triangular site, enclosing between them a courtyard and central meeting space.

The main building on the northern side, a continuous volume which provides visual and acoustic protection from the road above, contains departmental offices, lecture halls, an auditorium and a library. Across the courtyard on the southern side are four individual studio towers, which are placed several meters apart to allow views to the river, their different heights and facade configurations conforming to variations in the program. These are connected to the main building by a series of corridors below the plaza.

The volumes of the main building and towers converge westward, where a cafe pavilion and outdoor terrace mark the entrance to the site. At the opposite end, the courtyard leads to an elevated grass platform, which in turn climbs up by a series of ramps and stairs to the former estate and garden, giving access through a narrow gate to the Carlos Ramos Pavilion. Set at the apex of the estate, this simple two-story structure is a succinct summary of the courtyard plan - a U-shaped classroom building with its two wings converging at a sharp angle. While its exterior facades are blind, the large pivoting windows facing the interior courtyard allow complete transparency between the classrooms on either side of the building, and views beyond to the garden and river.

The materials used in the interior of the more recent addition include exotic wood for the floors and wainscots, marble in the foyers and stairs, specially-designed furniture for the classrooms, auditorium and library, and skylights which draw natural light into the main spaces.

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1998 Portugal Pavilion

Posted on 21 April 2009 by Alvaro


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pavilhaoportugalThe Portuguese National Pavilion is a prestigious landmark building designed by Alvaro Siza to host Expo 98 - the world’s largest trade fair. Siza’s shell-like design also served to introduce the ‘ocean & world heritage’ theme of the event and to represent the culture of the host country.

Appointed for the concept and scheme design, Arup provided: structural, mechanical, electrical, and geotechnical engineering; fire safety and lighting design; and specialist acoustic advice.

The pavilion consists of two exhibition areas, one housing main exhibitions, the second providing a large outdoor space for national displays. The most iconic feature of the pavilion however, is a thin, curved concrete sail which creates a canopy over the ceremonial plaza.

Cables supporting the canopy require enormous tension, provided by a series of 14m high fin-like walls which form porticos on either side of the plaza.

As Lisbon is an area of high sismic activity, the canopy and the building are completely separate, each with its own structural support system.

At the time of construction, the National Pavilion was Lisbon’s largest urban regeneration project since rebuilding the city in the aftermath of an earthquake and tidal wave which ravaged the city in 1775.

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2005 Serpentine Gallery

Posted on 20 April 2009 by Alvaro


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22102018_2bac00842cIn comparison, the replacement for the MVRDV pavilion is simplicity itself.

A cafe by day and a venue for talks and events at night, it is little more than a grid made from short planks of timber, folded down at the edges to form the walls. Panes of polycarbonate fill in the squares of the grid until it meets the ground on extended “legs”. Anyone with a basic knowledge of woodwork will be able to see immediately how it’s been put together: with mortise and tenon joints. A bolt secures each joint and there’s your pavilion. So while MVRDV set themselves a mountain to climb, this looks like it could have been assembled from a flat-pack - given a thousand years’ worth of Sunday afternoons.

“A pavilion is usually an isolated building, but with this site we felt we should maintain a relationship with the gallery and the trees, and these things were the start of the idea,” explains Siza. “In front of the house there are two hedges forming half an ellipse. That gave us the suggestion to make a curved surface to complete the ellipse. And as the trees outside were in a position that avoided making a rectangle, we decided to make the four faces curved. The curves are not symmetrical because of the position of these trees, so they adapted to these accidents. Also the roof began suffering accidents. It’s like a vault but it comes down approaching the gallery, like a compliment. Architecture is often developed through such accidents and difficulties. In the end that gives character to the buildings.”

A quick poll of passers-by on the exterior of the pavilion before it had opened produced mixed reactions: many likened it to a dinosaur or an armadillo; some couldn’t wait to get inside; others found it hostile, unremarkable, or even ugly. A group of workmen nearby said they preferred it before they put the polycarbonate panels on it, others that it would look better with plants growing over it.

After more than 50 years in the business, Siza is no stranger to such reactions. Although he is revered by fellow professionals, and won the prestigious Pritzker prize in 1992, he has never been a high-stakes architectural superstar like Norman Foster or Frank Gehry. Rather than turning out flamboyant structures, his buildings can look unremarkable at first glance. But Siza’s mastery lies in subtler qualities such as context, spatial relationships and use of light. He’s generally a less-is-more modernist who favours clean, straight lines, whitewashed walls and almost-blank geometric volumes, but his buildings are usually too sensitive to their users and their surroundings to veer into uptight minimalism.

One of his most celebrated works, for example, is a public swimming pool built in the late 1960s at Leça da Palmeira. It consists of little more than concrete planes and platforms defining a group of tidal pools, but with minimal intervention they create a space that relates to both the natural rock formations and the concrete seawalls of the decidedly un-picturesque Altantic coastline.

From a similar school of thought, the younger Eduardo Souto de Moura worked in Siza’s office during the 1970s before branching off on his own. At least one of his projects is arguably more famous in Britain than any of Siza’s: the Braga Stadium, which hosted football matches during Euro 2004 - it was the one with a sheer granite rock face at one end of the pitch. The two architects have collaborated before, on Portugal’s flagship pavilion at Expo 98 in Lisbon, but that was formal and monumental, in marked contrast to the casual, playful building at the Serpentine.

“We worked at the same table, sometimes both writing in different corners of the same piece of paper,” says Siza. “It’s a work of friendship and amusement. It’s like a holiday, because one of the attractions of this work is that there is no bureaucracy, no need to know about regulations. It was very free.”

The influence of Arup’s Cecil Balmond is there to see in the broken up geometry of the structure, and the fact that the whole thing stands up. On closer inspection, the timber grid appears to be warped out of shape and the lines of the timber elements are staggered zig-zags, as if it the building had been shaken by an earthquake. Despite the basic construction methods, the pavilion is the result of serious computing power and precision engineering. Every piece of wood and every pane of polycarbonate is different.

Had they been allowed inside the pavilion, the sceptics of Kensington Gardens might have been won over by Siza and Souto de Moura’s artistry. In contrast to the exterior, the space inside is unexpectedly grand and yet almost ecclesiastically tranquil. The semi-opaque panels give the ceiling a luminous glow, and the leaves of the surrounding trees are silhouetted on the walls. A solar-powered light in the centre of each roof panel turns on automatically at dusk, but because each panel is differently orientated, the lights come on one by one. And as with Siza’s other works, the pavilion is acutely sensitive to its surroundings. The walls appear to bow outwards in deference to the surrounding trees, and openings at the corners neatly frame young trees and views across the park. The decision to leave the bottom metre or so of the structure open means that visitors sitting at the cafe tables (designed by Siza, of course) will be able to see out across the park.

Siza has yet to visit the site, though. Souto de Moura came and took notes and photos from which they worked out the design. But Siza is not offended that people have likened his structure a giant armadillo. “Actually, I think it is my fault,” he says. “In the beginning when describing it, I said it was like an animal with its feet in the ground. It wasn’t in our minds to make it look like an animal, but in the end we are always confronted with nature and with natural forms. Forms are not only defined by complex mathematics and proportions, we can look around and we have trees and dogs and people. It’s like an alphabet of proportions and relations that we use. I think that’s one of the tasks of the architect: to make things look simple and natural which in fact are complex.”

By Fernando Guerra

Designed in Portugal, engineered in England, fabricated in Germany using innovative Finnish technology, built, with lashings of Anglo-Saxon enterprise, in London and all done in six months without a penny of subsidy: if Tony Blair wants a symbol of the New Europe to mark his presidency of the European Union, he had better claim this year’s Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens as his own.

If all had gone well, this year would have seen the Serpentine Gallery swallowed up by the radical Dutch practice MVRDV’s mountain. But that proved one leap too far. Cost and, one suspects, such practical issues as fire escapes, intervened, so although technically still a work “in progress”, it was shelved.

Instead, Julia Peyton-Jones, the Serpentine’s director, turned last December to the magisterial 72-year-old Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza and his long-term collaborator Eduardo Souto de Moura to come up with this year’s pavilion.

Siza is one of the grand old men of European architecture, best known for crisp white buildings such as the Museu Serralves in Porto, the church of Sta Maria at Marco de Canavezes, and the wonderful Portuguese Pavilion at the Lisbon Expo of 1998, with its hanging concrete “veil”.

Souto de Moura, who is 53, worked for Siza for five years before setting up on his own, but they still share the same building and occasionally collaborate on projects such as the Lisbon Pavilion.

And there is a third figure to throw into the mix - the engineer Cecil Balmond, deputy chairman of Arup, who worked with Siza and Souto de Moura on the Portuguese Pavilion and has been the éminence grise behind all the Serpentine Pavilions, making sure that these small but complex buildings can actually stand up.

The brief is simple: a pavilion that can be used by the cramped Serpentine Gallery as a café for the summer by day and a place for parties and events by night. But the aim is much more ambitious: to create an instant architectural exhibition as substantial and satisfying as any show within the Serpentine. Architecture is notoriously difficult to turn into an exhibition, so why not call in architects who have never built in London to design a temporary building instead?

The last pavilion, the ageing Niemeyer’s small but monumental structure, was a built retrospective, a summation of key ideas from a career that has lasted more than 70 years. Those expecting something similar from Siza are in for a surprise.

Instead of a highly sophisticated exploration of the ideals of classic white modernism like the Museu Serralves, this year’s pavilion is unprecedented in his work, a billowing lattice-like timber structure, filled in with polycarbonate panels, that resembles nothing so much as a “tortoise”, the instant defence that Roman legionaries created by locking their shields together.

When I met Siza and Souto de Moura at the pavilion, fresh from the airport, it became clear that what had driven the design was the site, particularly the two handsome oak trees that sail over the pavilion, which Siza described as like a sculpture, and which form an anchor for the building.

The parameters were simple: the two trees, the bulk of the Serpentine Gallery and the lawn in-between, which is embraced by curving paths. From this came the idea of a rectangular structure pushed out of shape by the trees - the timber supports almost seem to shy away from the branches - with the wall towards the Serpentine Gallery curving to respect the shape of the lawn.

The first discussion with Cecil Balmond brought up the question of whether the structure should have a refined, almost “high-tech” feel (like all the preceding pavilions) or be something more vernacular. Despite their long-term interest in clean white lines, both Siza and Souto de Moura have always had a fascination with local materials such as timber, masonry and ceramic tiles, so they chose to take the vernacular route. (Siza explained that the result was partly inspired by English half-timbered structures, but with a strongly Japanese touch.)

The structure is entirely constructed out of an innovative, strong laminated timber, Laminated Veneer Lumber, made by Finnforest in Finland, cut from great sheets into small planks outside Munich, stained to match the oak trees and bring out the grain and put together like a giant flatpack in London.

Choosing the cladding was the other key decision. Should this be fabric or a fixed cladding? Siza wanted it to be light but solid, so he chose translucent polycarbonate panels, carefully arranged so that when you stand up your eye is caught by the structure, but when you sit down you can look through the open trellis to the park.

Each of the panels in the roof is penetrated by a ventilation cowl holding a battery-operated, solar-powered light, which illuminates the interior by night and gives it an ethereal glow from outside - all with the added benefit that there is no need for any cabling to spoil the lines.

The result is a chunky, engaging building that is definitely more challenging than any of the other pavilions so far. Instead of the spatial pyrotechnics of Hadid and Libeskind, the thrilling geometry of Ito or the satisfying inevitability of Niemeyer, Siza and Souto de Moura’s pavilion takes time to reveal its qualities. But sit under the restless grid, at chairs and tables designed by Siza, watching the life of the park go by and the subtleties of the building slowly reveal themselves.

Architecture, particularly temporary architecture, should not necessarily be an instant wow. Sometimes it should require us to delve deeper, to think a little harder, and that is what Siza and Souto de Moura make us do.

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2006 Anyang Pavilion

Posted on 15 April 2009 by Alvaro


final1A Pavilion in Korea

February 2005: the invitation, sudden and urgent. A small city of 300,000 inhabitants had launched a project for a cultural complex right in front of a natural park, wedged in amongst beautiful mountains. A multifunctional pavilion was needed as a complementary, but central element. Álvaro Siza’s name was mentioned and the invitation was answered, in person, in Porto.

March 2005: This was an urgent matter and I immediately went to the site, to look around, take note, and bring back the necessary bases for an architect’s work, as the theme was sober: a multifunctional space, a small, possibly multifunctional office, perhaps for the police, and toilets for those who walk the park’s paths as well as for those who remain around the square or go to the local restaurants. Jun, a Korean architect who studied abroad, interned in Porto, and who is now based in Seoul has been a friend of mine for 20 years, and was waiting for me upon arrival. Our friendship and profession would establish the necessary connection. Arriving at the site, the urgency is present, the urgency of the urgency is present, because that is the way the country is, like its people and lifestyle. There is time to decide, but after decision comes the urgency. There is great euphoria at APAP 2005 – Anyang Public Art Project 2005. Many artists and a few architects have already confirmed it. There is some concern. Can so many guests of so many nationalities comprehend the urgency? Calmly, we gather elements, take photographs, solicit detailed plans, search for documentation, search for architectural precedents, most of it destroyed in the wars, for current architecture of merit….our friends help and point things out.

The site is an open space, shorn from the mountain, a square to be created. There are already compromises, perhaps they can be coordinated, even eliminated, we shall see. Back in Porto and the West. I try to transmit the experience, way of life, flavours and foundations of the work. Siza receives, perceives, questions and interprets like no other. From the first work session, a few timid, interpretive blueprints are made. The second session, supported by a model of the site, is more approximate, form becomes form, content in search of a programme. Other sessions follow, primarily on Saturdays and Sundays. The atmosphere is excellent. Models are built, scale is increased, the blueprints require alterations of the plans, models and 3Ds. It is necessary to return to Korea and present the project to the client.

July 2005: upon arrival, we are informed that the presentation is at 4:00pm. At four o’clock the meeting begins: the mayor, necessary council members, directors and as well as technicians, local architects and guests. Brief presentation of Álvaro Siza’s work, presentation of the proposal, some translation, intelligent questions, necessity of increasing the number of toilets, nothing that prevents the formal approval of the proposal, carrying out the necessary, requested alterations. Expression of thanks for the quality of the work, but also the urgent press for time. It is time to start construction, it’s urgent, and the snow…Seven o’clock, confirmation dinner to express satisfaction with the project, its acceptance and official approval. Back home, the process, though identical, is another, as we have proceeded to the execution phase. Adaptations to small alterations in the project, to the forms, and the form to the project. The designs acquire scale, rigour, but always follow the blueprint and the blueprint follows the rigour of execution. Construction starts and the designs continue. The Net permits the exchange of information, but also allows you to see the work progress despite the distance. Despite the urgency, the pleasure at seeing the work advance forward, unrestrained by bureaucracy, provides pleasure, because ours is a different reality.

November 2005: back again for the opening of the park and to visit the construction site. An entire, rough volume of grey almost white concrete intuits the light. An exquisite execution born of urgency. The site was made for the volume and the volume rises from the site. Of the remainder of the square, little could be saved, we are left with our half. The Parque, fair of the vanities, is pleasing…; displeasing, the capacity of implementation amazes me. Very little is ok, much is of a temporary nature, even disposable. What is good will remain, time will not be merciful. Infrastructures, M & E services, finishings, materials, preparations for the next phase are discussed. In Porto, the final design is being followed up with our support almost in real time.

July 2006: back again, a great surprise, despite the exchange of photos. Entering the finished space is sublime, as is the light. Not at all static, when we move, the space sings, as Siza would say. It is introverted when required, extroverted in its perspectives, in its passages, in the volumetry of the form and materials. The client and the city respectfully ask and the pavilion takes the name of Anyang – Álvaro Siza Hall. Already in use, the inauguration is just around the corner.

Carlos Castanheira, architect.

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2005 Armanda Passos House

Posted on 14 April 2009 by Alvaro



The Armanda Passos House
Álvaro Siza

0073437-381_425x425The Interiorized House

Amidst horizontal and vertical planes conditioned by the contours of the terrain, memories of Zen gardens and fire signs, the Armanda Passos house has gently risen – the most recent project by Álvaro Siza in Porto.

Designed to be lived in at all hours of the day, when light seeks out shade, and shade opens itself to the light, the house-atelier, commissioned by painter Armanda Passos from the most international name in Portuguese architecture, allows the complicity naturally created by the architect with his work to transpire at each step. This is the second dwelling designed by Siza in Porto. The first was built in the 1960’s on the Avenida dos Combatentes. Between project and construction, via the city council approval process, three years passed (2002-2005). The project included the demolition of the existing house and the construction of three volumes, interlinked and joined in a way that defines two patio-gardens, interspersed by existing trees. There is even a wide garden between the border wall of the avenue’s pavement and the front of the building. Additional trees were planted. It is claimed that they establish a bridge between East and West. In an interview with Arquitectura & Construção, Álvaro Siza discusses the completed project:

The Armanda Passos house was built for a friend…
Now she is, at the time we did not have such a close friendship. Afterwards we did, because the building of a home is a great story.

How did you face the challenge?
She is sensitive person with a great attachment to the house and I created, in a special way, not only comfort but also the whole aspect of association with the garden, intimacy, quality of light, etc. It is very pleasing for an architect to have a client that has these requirements in terms of quality.

What about the project?

The project assigned to me includes a residential part with a multifunctional living room that can be projected/extended from a stage that can be raised to varying elevations. The residence and the multifunctional living room are interconnected by a transitional space: an atrium. After that there is an atelier with Northern exposure.

The roof of the atelier has two gradients like in old factories and warehouses, which give it a special light….

Exactly. The so-called shade? It has a high, northern light.

In the interior, you experimented a lot with different volumes…

The ground area is small and I wanted to take as much advantage of the garden as possible in order to avoid creating an isolated mass. As there were three functionally well-defined parts to the project, two of which were connected and one which could function independently, I used this to organise the patios. There is a patio between the multifunctional living room and the residence to the west; there is another next to the driveway; and there is a space in front of the multifunctional living room, between it and a transitional wall that stands between the street and the front of the house. So there are three quite differentiated spaces.

The house is slightly lower than its neighbours. Was this intentional?
All of the neighbouring houses have two floors. In this one, the part most visible from the street is only one storey, though it is taller than average. It is intentional because it was possible to connect the three volumes and thus create patios on all three sides. The two-storey volume and the taller volume, because of the shades, are in the back. The fact that there is an open space in front and on the two sides allowed for the planting of trees and the creation of a certain intimacy in the exterior areas of the lot. As the neighbouring houses are two-storey, if this one were as well, it would feel narrow. In this way, a sensation of generous, roomy interior space is possible.

At the same time, the house contains elements characteristic of the 1950’s –such as the brises-soleil- as well as presenting an eastern spirit. There’s an understanding here between East and West…
There is no doubt that in traditional Japanese architecture –as beautiful as it is- there is this concern. An articulation exists that organizes well-defined exterior spaces –the patios- and allows for quite significant communication that at the same time is intimate with the interior. The famous Zen gardens of Osaka are articulate constructions that connect and depart from the geometric spaces where they create marvellous garden compositions. In this case, the way in which the garden is laid out is not related to the Zen gardens, but a feeling of intimacy exists. As the house does not contain too much glass, it benefits from the communication between the interior and exterior in the large windows that frame these exterior spaces.

The brises-soleil repel the light and cast a shadow on the ground like an architectural memory. The gutters also mark the limits of the brises-soleil on the ground.
The brises-soleil are there to provide protection from the sun and the heat and also create a transition between the interior and exterior.

At a certain point, the volumes almost touch at certain angles…
Yes. The bodies of the atelier together with the veranda and the residence’s brise-soleil almost touch. They are three well-defined structures, but are intended to form a whole. Hence the proximity of elements of one structure with another to establish transitional spaces and unify the ensemble.

There are details that are almost indicative of elements. One recalls an outline of the veranda that functions like an arrow pointing out a tree or a detail of the wall. Thus, the architecture itself follows a path…
It follows the treatment of the garden. The areas where the trees and bushes are planted are based on providing solar protection. For example, the west-facing multifunctional living room window has a brise-soleil. First of all, because the brise-soleil protects the window from the south when the sun is high in the sky. When the sun is low, it doesn’t help so much. Other systems have to be used, like the brise-soleil. When the sun sets, even the neighbouring house provides significant protection. Where the sun could enter diagonally and create discomfort during the summer, an evergreen tree was planted. Next to the window sash of the large window on the western side of the multifunctional living room, there is a deciduous tree because in the winter the house is more comfortable with direct sunlight. During the warm season the house is shaded.

Is it a four-season home?
Yes, it is. These are elementary things that both spontaneous and erudite architecture have always used in the mutual relationship between nature and man-made construction.

At the top of the stairs, the light that enters through the skylight signals the steps as if showing the way. It is a repeating gesture…

I don’t really like violent light and curtains are necessary, but I also like it when a house can stand completely open, when there are transparencies. Controlling light is not only done through curtains, but also through brises-soleil which break the intensity of the light and the location and orientation of the windows themselves, the end goal being thermal comfort. Metering light intensity was something that old houses did, particularly those in the south, of Arab tradition. Patios with very intense light, porticos that create a transition to the interior, then more broken light and even shady areas –they are necessary for comfort.

Your houses have this tradition…
I don’t recall having designed an entirely glass house. Not only because of comfort and to not have to resort to mechanical means, but because I think a house needs to contain different environments. Some are more relaxing and serene, others are more extroverted. A house is made up of these variations. It is apparently simple because many things take place inside a home.

In the interior of the atelier, the light from the shades almost give one a sense of looking through the windows of a cathedral with a rising light….
The intention was not to create a religious environment, but, as the house belongs to a painter, special care is needed with the light in order to create good conditions for painting as well as maintenance. Not too long ago, Armanda Passos contacted me, because, although the shades face north, in the summer there is an hour when the sun enters. Not only can it be bothersome, it can damage the paintings, and therefore we are going to install outdoor blinds so that during these few days, the rays are blocked.

The atelier’s windows give the illusion that they can be pulled down. Almost opening the entire sky…
That doesn’t happen in this case. The windows run all the way to the floor, but they have panes that open. The larger parts are sliding doors and in certain cases move as one piece. There is no crossbar. It is an entire piece of glass that runs inside the wall.

In general, the window and door planes are well defined. Some open broadly, others narrowly. As if you were playing with the volumes in a harmonic game…
It’s a game that requires great effort [laughs], but there is a dimension of pleasure in this effort because the possibility of working for someone who asks for and demands quality is not frequent –whether it is a public or private work.

Everything has been geared toward the client…
Yes, she was extremely demanding with regards to the quality of the construction –which is very good. It’s not enough for the architect to demand quality in construction. The person paying for the building who demands quality has a different impact. Often, who’s paying is not so interested in quality. This demand for quality is considered to be the whim of an annoying architect.

Do the lateral walls that separate the house from its neighbours have different heights for security?
Yes. The walls were utilised. On one of the sides the wall was raised and the neighbours did not raise any problems. The other side was not even touched.

What materials were used for the house?

It’s traditional from a materials point of view. The walls and outer shell are reinforced concrete. In my experience, it is very difficult to mix materials. Any minor error during installation can lead to the appearance of cracks. All of the houses I’ve done in reinforced concrete are in excellent shape. Even the one I did in the 1960’s is concrete and it has never had any problems with cracks, moisture, etc. The supporting wall is in reinforced concrete that is duplicated outside with a wall in stuccoed brick. Between the two is a ventilation space containing thermal isolation material. This means the wall is 45cm thick, including inner and outer stucco. The advantages are the isolation. On the exterior, besides the stucco, there is a granite groove to guard against ground moisture. Most of the periphery contains a coarse gravel band with a drain underneath, precisely so moisture does not affect the stucco.

And with regard to the wood used?
All the wood is painted, the interior and exterior frames, except for the flooring, which is of restored old Scots pine, and the stairs. In areas with water, marble was installed. The kitchen was especially designed for the house, although today it is in production at the factory that built it. Countertops are in marble. The rest is lacquered wood.

Are the window frames made of wood?
Yes. The outer part has an aluminium panel that holds the glass in place and also protects the paint. It’s Iroko wood, treated so that it can handle the paint.

What are the roofing materials?
Earth and vegetation. It is a flat roof in waterproofed concrete and immediately on top is a 40cm layer of soil for the grass.

And the roof of the atelier?
It’s covered with zinc.

The shades provide a very large movement to the entire roof…
Yes, they increase slightly from front to back so that it gently conforms with the street. The house almost goes unnoticed. The recessed part contains two floors. The atelier has higher ceilings because Armanda builds large canvases and really needs the space and breathing room. All of this takes place in the back, cut off by the trees. So, it’s not an exhibitionistic house. It’s more interiorized.

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