paulo marques Shihlien Chemical Industrial Park

Siza: that which is complex in simplicity

Earth, water, air, and fire. These were the four basic elements of Ancient Greece that explained a series of complex phenomenons and served as the basis for the elaboration of certain theories. In Japan, earth represented that which was solid, water the liquid material, and water was that which moved.

Shihlien Chemical Industrial Park Office, Siza and Carlos Castanheira, (2014 Fernando Guerra). Observing the extensive work of Álvaro Siza, which extends over different eras and movements, and which includes everything from housing to culture to religion, we manage to identify an exquisite, formal purity, executed with a single gesture that poetically fills all of our senses, with influences in the giant masters such as Le Corbusier, Aalto, F.L. Wright, Mies Van der Rohe, or Loos. Siza creates a mannerist language in which geometry seems to be born from that very place, where architectural forms center themselves naturally within the landscape. Siza’s architecture is composed of a mixture of genuine gestures that are at the same time ample yet sensitive to our dimension, which unifies the respect for tradition and preserves that which is local, refuting that international architecture which is generic and exuberant.

Since his beginnings, in some of the houses that he took on as projects in the north of Portugal, such as the case of the Alcino Cardoso House or the Beires House, Siza revealed the principle solids of his discipline, the frequent use of wood in building enclosures and carpentry, in the style of Aalto and Távora. In Casa Beires there seems to be an ‘explosion’ of the cubic form of the house, originating from the outside patio and organizing itself from there. In an initial establishment that was far from interesting, Siza managed to create a nearly habitable sculpture with this project. With just a stroke of the author, the house escaped the rigidity of that which was modern. In the field of collective housing, Siza has been able to unite and meet the demands of sensitivity and functionality, both in a permanent dialogue with the population.

In various pieces of his work the terrestrial relationship is evident, but it is in the Pools of Leça where his architecture dissolves into nature, constructing the mise-en-scène until reaching the sea. This may very well be his piece of work that best demonstrates that through the combination of a few elements, it is possible to create an excellent architectural experience.

In the Galician Center of Contemporary Art one can feel the weight of the exterior wall that almost touches the ground, or, in the Pavilion of Portugal, the tension created by the concrete structure that is supported by steel cables, that appear to have the lightness of a piece of paper. In the most recent Nadir Afonso Museum of Contemporary Art, the set of volumes of architecture orchestrates the best way to complete program obligations in a project that has many similitudes with the Fundação Serralves or the Biblioteca de Viana do Castelo. In these last pieces, we can observe a sublime rigorous geometry and a similar preoccupation for detail and light, be it through long yet sensitive windows or boxes of zenith lighting.

Pabellón de Portugal (Pavilion of Portugal), Álvaro Siza, 1998 (Fernando Guerra)

Pabellón de Portugal (Pavilion of Portugal), Álvaro Siza, 1998 (Fernando Guerra)

Siza is a master because he achieves being an artist, an engineer, a poet, and above all, a human. A great part of his architecture has not been exhaustively rationalized, but rather it is the result of a drawing that, in few lines, is explained, frequently inspired in the human body, of volumes that cross one another, of structures, of curves, of light, of shadow, of the void and of its opposite, of stone, of wood, and of many of these things innate to nature, all coming together in the form of architecture that is as serene as a river, yet impressive as a mountain.

Text translated by Kaitlyn P. Delaney
(Coimbra, 1991) Arquiteto recém-graduado pela Universidade de Coimbra, estando um ano de Erasmus na HCU em Hamburgo, cidade onde também realizei um estágio pelo mesmo programa. Considero a viagem das coisas mais importantes na formação do arquiteto e interesso-me particularmente pelo urbanismo e modo de habitar a cidade.

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