The Museum of Contemporary Art of the Serralves Foundation in Porto (Portugal) dedicates a retrospective to its creator Alvaro Siza. The opportunity to immerse oneself in the work of one of the greatest figures of contemporary architecture.
“Name: Alvaro Siza. Discipline: As little as possible.” This handwritten note found on one of the architect’s sketchbooks is the starting point of the exhibition, which traces his career spanning over 65 years. Alvaro Siza is one of the great figures of contemporary architecture. Originally from Matosinhos in Portugal, he was awarded the Pritzker Prize – “ the Nobel Prize in architecture “in 1992. But that’s not all, as he has a whole collection: winner of the Mies van der Rohe prize in 1988, of the Praemium Imperiale in 1998, of the Golden Lion at the Architecture Biennale in 2002 and of the Grand Special Prize of urban planning in 2005. He also received the ‘Grand prix d’architecture’ of the Académie des beaux-arts in Paris in November 2019. This prize is awarded every two years and is now called the Charles-Abella prize.
The architect draws inspiration from the encounters he makes and the places he visits to imagine his buildings with their typical sleek lines. Drawing has a very important place in the creative process of this graduate of the School of Fine Arts of Porto (1955). With Fernando Tavora, of whom he was a student, and Carlos Ramos, he is at the origin of Critical Regionalism, a modernist movement based on local architecture and know-how. For them, modernity is by no means synonymous with a break with the past. At the age of 86, Alvaro Siza still works in his agency in Porto, on the banks of the Douro.
Getting the outside in
Some thirty projects are presented in “his” town, as part of the Serralves Foundation: from his first works in his hometown of Matosinhos, just a few miles away, to the residential tower on 56th Street in Manhattan, his only building to date in the United States. His work may seem crude and cold at first, but all his sensitivity and poetry are played out in the bond he weaves between inside and outside. Alvaro Siza plays with direct and indirect sources, windows and skylights, that may be visible or invisible. He seeks to “bring in” nature, whether it is a view of the sea, of the street, of a garden, or of buildings… Inside, the rooms are often very white and clean. The architect keeps only the essentials. He creates everything, from walls to switches and furniture.
Twenty years after its inauguration, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Serralves Foundation pays tribute to the man who imagined its concrete and steel structure, its perspectives, its wide windows, its exhibition spaces… For the architect, it would be difficult to find a better setting for his models and drawings than a building he designed himself.