Álvaro Siza Designs Biomorphic Pavilion in Shanghai

There are three words that have long-awaited to be put together: The Siza Pavilion. Their story begins with top furniture brand CAMERICH and the Aedes Architecture Forum’s search for a visionary in architecture and product design. The 1992 Pritzker Prize Laureate, Álvaro Siza, was later selected and commissioned a pavilion for China’s International Furniture Fair (CIFF 2019).

On February 21st, Siza made the first sketch as he visited the Hufeisensiedlung. No one could’ve envisioned a more serendipitous beginning, as Bruno Taut’s curves and corners slowly made their way into the unsure shadows of early creation.  A second sketch came into existence after wandering through the anthropomorphic lines of Picasso. The pavilion’s concentrated body broke into several limbs, with a foyer reminiscent of Dora Maar’s nose, in The Yellow Sweater, and courtyards’ akin to the negative spaces in Blue Nude Skipping Rope

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Proposed exhibition layout for CamerichPavilion. 2019 © Álvaro Siza

Matisse’s collage had a lasting effect on Siza, as he started to play with aluminum foil cut-outs. It brought back the latent memory of his Iberê Camargo Museum, in Brazil, and of shimmering insulation covered up during construction. Álvaro Siza said that he would one day make it visible and he finally has. The Siza Pavilion’s outer skin is entirely made out of mineral-wool with aluminum foil facing, which is not just useful soundproofing in heavy-traffic areas, but also unusually beautiful in its soft glow and ever-changing illusion of colors, movements, silhouettes... 

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CamerichPavilion aluminum foil collage. 2019 © Álvaro Siza
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Aluminum model of CamerichPavilion. 2019 © Álvaro Siza

The exterior metaphysical reflection of its surroundings contrasts with the interior abstraction of its cloud white planes. Large triangles and trapezoids seem to hover 4m above the floor, diaphragms that reconnect different angles, sequencing a widening promenade. From initial compression to core expansion, the pavilion’s backbone exhibits some of the furniture that Álvaro Siza manufactured in his 86 years.

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Exhibition floor plan for CamerichPavilion. 2019 © Álvaro Siza

The Carlos Ramos Pavilion was Siza’s first and most meaningful pavilion. Today, many of its concepts are distilled in Shanghai: a monolith fragmented by geometry, where the oblique convergence of the courtyard intentionally forces perspective, narrowing to achieve intimacy or breaching to dilute boundaries. The complex in and out folding of the walls relinquishes any thought of vertical extrusions and focuses longitudinally on the corners, in continuous dialogue with the pre-existing concrete pillars and the solid wood benches that mediate the courtyards’ embrace.

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Model of CamerichPavilion. 2019 © Álvaro Siza
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Paper model - CamerichPavilion. 2019 © António Choupina

Seven doorways punctuate these courtyards, allowing for overall permeability while crafting specific entry points beyond the head of this 715m² pavilion. I say “head” due to its biomorphic character. A mere glance at the floorplan and one will find it resembles some kind of animal: an anteater, an elephant, or maybe the cat that inhabits Siza’s office, stretching its paws and tail in the sun – as if architecture leaned toward anti-entropic evolution. 

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CamerichPavilion Perspective 1. 2019 © Álvaro Siza

Project Info:

Architect: Álvaro Siza Vieira

Project Manager: Cristina Ferreirinha

Collaborator: Maria Souto de Moura

Consulting Architect: António Choupina

Coordinator in China: Zhang Ke

Structural Engineering: G.O.P. – Gabinete de Organização e Projectos, Lda.

  • Jorge Amorim Nunes da Silva

Electrical Engineering: GPIC – Gabinete de Projectos, Consultoria e Instalações, Lda.

  • Alexandre Ferreira Martins Cardoso Costa

Portuguese Furniture Manufacturers: Carvalho, Batista & Cª, Sa., Osvaldo Matos SA Reg.

  • C.R.C., Serafim Pereira Simões SUCRS, LDA

Location: NECC – National Exhibition and Convention Center, Shanghai


Area: 715m²

Year: 2019

Pavilion opening and symposium: September 8th 2019

Coordination: ANCB The Aedes Metropolitan Laboratory

  • Hans-Jürgen Commerell, Kristin Feireiss, Christine Meierhofer, Miriam Mlecek

Management: CAMERICH

  • Amanda Zhang, Peter Xu, Shirley Wang, Maggy Zeng

Hosted by: China International Furniture Fair

  • China Foreign Trade Guangzhou Exhibition General Corp.
  • Red Star Macalline Group
  • China Foreign Trade Macalline Exhibition Co., Ltd.

Supported by: ASSC Architectural Society of Shanghai, China

  • CHHE Council on High-rise Building and Habitat Environment, Shanghai

Academic Partners:

  • Tsinghua University, School of Architecture, Beijing
  • Tongji University, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shanghai

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About this author
Cite: Choupina, António . "Álvaro Siza Designs Biomorphic Pavilion in Shanghai" [Álvaro Siza projeta pavilhão biomórfico em Xangai] 04 Sep 2019. ArchDaily. (Trans. Erman, Maria) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/924265/alvaro-siza-designs-biomorphic-pavilion-in-shanghai> ISSN 0719-8884

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