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Álvaro Siza

Alvaro_Siza-Matteo-Piazza copy.jpgÁlvaro Siza. Image © Matteo Piazza

By Eva Bjerring

Álvaro Joaquim de Melo Siza Vieira or better known as Álvaro Siza, is perhaps the most renowned Portuguese architect of the 20th century. Siza's profile is embedded within the Modern movement, yet he maintains an approach that is both subjective and unconventional.

Born in 1933 and raised in the coastal town of Matosinhos just north of Porto, Álvaro Siza studied at the University of Porto School of Architecture and upon graduating in 1955 established his private practice. In 1966, Siza was offered a teaching position at the university, and by 1976 became a tenured Professor of Architecture. However, it was not until the 1980's that Siza garnered attention from the international spotlight.

Siza's continuous experimentation communicates a sense of freedom within modern architecture. His work spans across boundaries, from mass housing developments, to swimming pools, single dwellings, banks, restaurants, and art galleries.

In addition to the cultural and social issues of architecture, geography and climate are of deep significance to Siza's mindset. His concepts and designs do not have a pre-established language nor does he intend to develop one. He stated that his designs are, "a response to a concrete problem, a situation in transformation in which I participate".

Following Portugal's independence from the dictatorship of the Salazar regime in 1974, Álvaro Siza would enter a defining moment in his career. Álvaro Siza was commissioned by SAAL (servicio de apoio ambulatorio local), the national housing association, to plan a housing project in the rural outskirts of Evora. Siza's attempt of integrating the demands of low cost housing with the affinity of Portugal's recent events captures a delicate tension.

Other works in Portugal include the new College of Education in Setubal, Porto's Serralves Foundation Contemporary Art Museum, the rebuilding of the Chiado neighborhood of Lisbon (damaged by fire in 1988), the library at Aveiro University. In other parts of Europe his projects include the Schlesisches Tor apartment building in Berlin, the renovation of Campo di Marte in Venice, the Ministry of Defense in Madrid, and the Meteorological Centre in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympic Games.

Siza has continued to be a visiting professor and guest lecturer throughout the world, from the United States, Colombia, Argentina, Germany, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and England. He has received honors from the Alvar Aalto Foundation (1988 Gold Medal), the Mies van der Rohe Award for the Borges & Irmao Bank in Vila do Conde, Portugal (1986), and was the first recipient of the Veronica Rudge Green Prize (or Prince of Wales Prize of Urban Design) presented by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design , for the housing project in Evora.

Mimesis Museum by Álvaro Siza in Paja Book City. Exterior landscape and park.
Photo: Duccio Malagamba
February 21, 2011 /

Mimesis Museum
Álvaro Siza
Paju Book City

The Mimesis Museum, housing a book publisher's private art collection, is located in Paju Book City, a new town 30 km from Seoul.

Santa Maria Church exterior 
Photo: arcspace
December 10, 2010 /

Santa Maria Church
Álvaro Siza
Marco de Canavezes, Portugal

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.

Iberê Camargo Museum
June 08, 2009 /

Iberê Camargo Museum (ICM)
Álvaro Siza
Porto Alegre, Brazil

Settled into the lush green hillside like a giant sculpture, the first building in Brazil by Álvaro Siza preserves the collection of more than 4000 works by Iberê Camargo, the master of Brazilian expressionism.

Meteorology Center exterior landscape
Photo: arcspace
March 15, 2004 /

Meteorology Center
Álvaro Siza
Barcelona, Spain

The Meteorology Center is located on the Paseo Maritimo - the waterfront promenade - which begins at the old harbor and continues through the 1992 Olympic Village and up the coast to the Northeast. The building is set back as a protection from the harshness of the maritime environment.

Faculty of Information Studies by Álvaro Siza in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Exterior.
Photo: arcspace
January 20, 2003 /

Faculty of Information Studies
Álvaro Siza
Santiago de Compostela, Spain

The Faculty of Information Studies building is integrated in the new university occupying a defined lot within the total plan. The main body of the building is placed linearly in the direction east-west respecting the alignment to the south with the Department of Philology.

Rectory Building by Álvaro Siza in Alicante, Spain. Exterior facade.
Photo: arcspace
June 24, 2002 /

Rectory Building
Álvaro Siza
Alicante, Spain

The University of Alicante in San Vicente del Raspeig occupies the site of the former military airport of Rabasa.

Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art by Álvaro Siza in Porto, Portugal. Exterior courtyard.
Photo: arcspace
March 11, 2000 /

Serralves Foundation 
Museum of Contemporary Art
Álvaro Siza
Porto, Portugal

Serralves Museum, the first large-scale contemporary art museum in Portugal, is located in the Quinta de Serralves; a large property close to the center of Porto that includes a main house built in the 1930's for the Count of Vizela.

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