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Álvaro Siza Vieira

Magazine Architecture Interviews | 01 Mar 2016


Architect of shapes modelled by light, of structures that are established as receptors/emitters of luminosity, Álvaro Siza Vieira seems to have discovered the pathways travelled by natural light through the densities of materials; he seems to make tangible the diaphanous substance that makes up light. In Siza’s gestures, in his hand flowing over the paper, light is also made in the sense that drawing is research, enabling one or more discoveries. In this hand pirouetting across the sheet of paper, dancing in intuitions of movement and shapes, plastic and technical intimacies are created, to ensure that architecture and art happen.

You have said: “If we ignore man, architecture becomes unnecessary.” This human dimension of architecture is sometimes isolated from architectural projects, with form predominating function. How do you reconcile the formal and functional dimension?

They complement each other. Architecture is a service, it applies to functions, to briefs, but it goes beyond this. What is built belongs to a company, to a private individual, to the state, but ultimately it belongs to everyone. Architecture interests the entire population. The overriding function of architecture is precisely beauty. It isn’t just the way in which the interior of a house is organised, but also the way in which it is positioned in the city, how it relates to the pre-existent, how it transforms it. This is the beauty of architecture.


An architectural work is a place that is added to a place. How should this new place occupy the original place?

It depends on the purpose of the project. The project is part of the landscape, it relates to what already exists and possibly creates potential for the future. In the natural run of events, the new project would be introduced harmoniously into the existing place. But it doesn’t always happen like that. Of course it relates with what already exists, but there is also a dimension of transformation, which, sometimes, has the opposite effect. And, as it always happens with architecture, contradictions need to be resolved.


Drawing is essential in your design process and you have stated that “the quest for organised space involves intuitions that drawing subtly introduces into the most logical and informed constructions”. Does drawing make apparent the enigma of things and of the world?

Drawing is an instrument, as the computer is, computer design, as is simply abstract thinking. You can do a project without making a single drawing. But the hand helps, there is a mutual supportiveness. The hand, and what it intuitively has, in terms of gestures, is also an instrument that we use. It is intuitive, but it is clear that behind these intuitions lie experiences, travel, contacts, studies, which are so extensive that they become material of the subconscious, which emerges when necessary.


You have always asserted the social role of architecture. At the 15th Venice Biennale, Portugal will be represented by the exhibition of four social housing projects that you created in Venice, Berlin, The Hague and Oporto. How can architecture contribute towards establishing the importance of the relationship with people?

Taking into account what these relationships really are, not effacing them just to obtain an aesthetic result, which is appreciated, but taking into account what lies behind the desire or the initiative to undertake this project. There are different processes and methods that provide the brief’s data, from surveys to direct contact with the populations. (…)

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Text: Paula Monteiro
Photos: FG + SG | Architectural Photography

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