ArchDaily is continuing our partnership with The Architectural Review, bringing you short introductions to the themes of the magazine’s monthly editions. In this editorial from AR’s February 2015 issue, AR Editor Catherine Slessor reflects on Álvaro Siza's ouevre, from his early work in Évora to his latest effort in China. Though the latter is admittedly elegant, Slessor concludes that in comparison to his older transformative designs the recent incarnation of "brand Siza" is a "predictable triumph of style over content."
The great Portuguese Modernist Fernando Távora once remarked "Style is not of importance; what counts is the relation between the work and life, style is only the consequence of it." His friend and protégé Álvaro Siza echoed this sentiment when he said: "Architecture does not have a pre-established language nor does it establish a language. It is a response to a concrete problem, a situation in transformation, in which I participate. In architecture, we have already passed the phase during which we thought that the unity of language would resolve everything. A pre-established language, pure, beautiful, does not interest me."
The series was launched in December 2013 and is comprised of 10 episodes, each focusing on a different theme: light, stairs, balconies, nature, textures, doors, windows, skylights, pavements and structures.
Last week we presented the series’ fourth episode on Porto's natural environment, and now we present Episode 5 – Textures. Read the producers’ description of the video after the break.
: Francisco Vieira de Campos, Cristina Guedes, João Mendes Ribeiro
Cristina Maximino, João Pontes, Luís Campos, Ana Leite Fernandes, Mariana Sendas, Pedro Costa, Inês Ferreira, João Fernandes (Menos é Mais Arquitectos Associados, Lda); Catarina Fortuna, Ana Cerqueira, Ana Rita Martins, António Ferreira da Silva, Cláudia Santos, Joana Figueiredo, João Branco (João Mendes Ribeiro Arquitecto, Lda)
In an essay and accompanying mini-documentary film by Ellis Woodman for The Architectural Review, Siza's iconic Quinta da Malagueira housing estate (1973-1977) in Évora, Portugal, is comprehensively explored and examined with a refreshingly engaging critical weight. Rather than develop multi-story housing in the sensitive landscape around the city, Siza proposed "a plan that distributed the programme between two fields composed of low-rise terraced courtyard houses." As a result, the arrangement of these structures adjust to the "undulating topography ensuring that the narrow, cobbled streets along which the houses are distributed always follow the slope."
As is made clear in the film (above), one of the remarkable aspects about the Quinta da Malagueira estate is that it is "governed by a third layer of infrastructure" which takes the form of "an elevated network of conduits that distributes water and electricity [...] much in the manner of a miniature aqueduct." For Siza, this was a logical move as it provided the cheapest means of distributing utilities around the complex. Woodman ultimately concludes that "Siza’s work at Malagueira invites a reading less as a fixed artefact and rather as one episode in the site’s ongoing transformation."