A legacy of love— Porto


The old master still teaching his would-be successors new tricks, Álvaro Siza is as dedicated to architecture now as when he started his practice 60 years ago. Optimistic despite his country’s predicament, his focus is set firmly on the future.

Portugal, Álvaro Siza

Talk for a few hours with Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza and one will walk away with an understanding of not only his nation’s current economic and cultural malaise, but also an equally impassioned analysis of everything from Portugal’s former colonial glory and Spain’s Inquisition-era folly to the blunders of European Union investment and the wonders of the South Korean construction industry.

“I’ve never held parochial views towards architecture,” declares the 79-year-old master on a stormy August afternoon in his compound-like, 10-architect…

Siza's story


1933 Born in the village of Matosinhos outside Porto, site of his first four houses barely two decades later

1954 Establishes private practice in Porto

1955 Graduates from University of Porto’s School of Architecture

1958 During the next eight years, completes seminal early works including the Boa Nova Tea House and Leça da Palmeira swimming pools near Porto

1992 Pritzker Prize for Chiado neighbourhood renovation scheme in Lisbon

1998 Designs the Portuguese Pavilion at the Lisbon Expo with office-neighbour Eduardo Souto de Moura

2005 Completes pavilion at London’s Serpentine Gallery

2009 Royal Gold Medal Award from RIBA

2012 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at Venice Architecture Biennale

Five key projects

  1. Serralves Foundation museum, Porto, 1999
    Set amid a maze of tended gardens, Siza’s Serralves museum is widely considered his greatest hometown hit. Adjacent to the museum’s original 1930s-era Art Deco structure, the new building hovers on the gardens’ edge with quiet gravitas.

  2. Iberê Camargo Foundation, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2008
    Housing the works of the famed Brazilian modern artist, Siza’s most important building in the Americas is a white-washed shell set against a lush tropical backdrop. Inside are display galleries and academic spaces linked by al fresco walkways.

  3. Faculty of Journalism, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 1993
    One of two important Siza buildings commissioned as part of the city’s early 1990s “City of Culture” infrastructure upgrade, the building is on the edge of Santiago’s old city. It is set within one of Europe’s older universities; Siza’s strongly horizontal design directly references Aalto-styled modernism.

  4. Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, London, 2005
    Siza’s only UK project, on which he collaborated with fellow Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, is an undulating grid of timber and polycarbonate. Siza described working with Souto de Moura as “like four hands playing on a single piano”. The result is elegant in form but simple in execution.

  5. Quinta da Conceição swimming pool, 1965
    Set in Siza’s hometown of Matosinhos, near Porto, this early commission (left) is in a leisure park masterplanned by Siza’s mentor, Fernando Tavora. The starkly designed swimming pool is emblematic of late Salazar-era public works.


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