Map of Ensemble of Alvaro Siza's Architecture Works in PortugalLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
Álvaro Siza Vieira is a contemporary Portuguese architect, who has been productive since the 1950s. His works can also be found abroad: in the Netherlands, Brazil, Italy and the USA for example. However, he built mostly in Portugal, in the region around Porto where he was born. A broad selection of his work is on the Portuguese Tentative List as “Ensemble of Álvaro Siza's Architecture Works in Portugal”. So during my recent trip there I interrupted the long drive between Braga and my next overnight stop Vila Viçosa with a visit to two of his built works.
The first one that I chose to visit lies in Vila do Conde, a small seaside resort between Braga and Porto. I had to go to the city center, where there is a branch of the Borges & Irmão Bank which was designed by Siza Vieira. Parking closeby did not work on a busy Saturday morning, but I found a spot a few blocks away for 0.45 EUR per hour.
Siza’s building is not difficult to recognize, it is something white and Le Corbusier-ish with many windows in a street with mainly traditional buildings. That contrast with its surroundings is conscious: “a dialogue with and distance from the urban fabric”. You actually have the best view of the building from the sidestreet, it shows the intriguing all-glass elevator shaft. Much more is not visible from the exterior. As it is a public building, one could go in posing as a customer but the bank seemed closed to clients on a Saturday. The bank building and its architect were the 1988 winners of the Mies Award, an European architecture award.
The second structure lies about 5 kilometers away, in Pavoa de Varzim. I drove there along a coastal road and noticed beaches packed with people. With a bit of puzzling on Google Maps I gathered how to find the Casa Carlos Beires. It is located in a residential area with more interesting modern buildings. It lies in a very ordinary street and the neighbors watched me when I got out of the car and walked over to the house. I had seen pictures of the yellow building beforehand, otherwise I wouldn't have recognized it. The address is Rua Doutor Alberto Pimentel 43 but there is no house number visible.
This Casa Beires is one of Siza’s earliest and most defining works. It is a family house with a courtyard and walls partly made out of glass. However, one wonders what has happened to it: the large trees in the garden obscure the view from the street and you cannot walk around it (it is fully surrounded by neighbouring plots). I found the gate closed, but there is a bell and a letterbox so it seemed inhabited. Recent photos of the courtyard shows it looking very run down. However, apparently an over 90 year old lady still lives there among her memorabilia and old furniture.
Álvaro Siza Vieira is seen by some as one of the greatest living architects. Despite the fairly recent deaths of contemporaries IM Pei and Zaha Hadid, he still has to beat the likes of Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas and Moshe Safdie to receive that honour. He won the prestigious Pritzker Prize already in 1992. But I find it doubtful that his reputation would be enough for a WH recognition: what has his influence been on the work of others for example? And which of his works do really stand out? Certainly the current list of 22 works would need a lot of trimming to be convincing.
Read more from Els Slots here.
On my last night in Portugal I had booked a hotel in Lisbon, near the airport, just South of Vasco da Gama Bridge. This area is known as Parque das Nações (newly created district, 2012) and its a vastly different area of Lisbon. In this Northeast area along the Tagus River, you can see the massive bridge (longest bridge in Europe). There is also a plethora of venues for music, art, and culture.
This is the setting we find Alvaro Siza's "Pavilion of Portugal". In some sense this is New Lisbon, in part a product of the 98' World Expo. The Pavilion itself is quite unique, its design elements have been described with an "enormous and impossibly thin concrete canopy, draped effortlessly between two mighty porticoes." This is an accurate description. My picture partly captures this, but not perfectly. This public venue seems well-used as a musical and cultural space. As I visited the Pavilion, workers were preparing for a large concert.
The setting is excellent, the nearby esplanade on the water and museums all made a fine area to walk. For any architectural enthusiast, this site and other works by Alvaro Siza should be interesting. A living modernist architect of whom's work spans seven decades, perhaps this can be seen as exceptional?
Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.
Driving the most popular motorway Lisbon-Porto we made a quick detour to see the university campus in Aveiro, especially its library building, placed on Portuguese T-List. The library, according to the description of the proposal, is one of the best examples of Alvaro Siza's architectural style. I am not familiar with modern architecture and I have not heard about Alvaro Siza before, but I liked the library building and the whole campus. In style and atmosphere it is so different from (not so distant) University of Coimbra but if I was a student again, I might consider these two places equally. I am not aware how many buildings of the Aveiro University have been designed by (or in cooperation with) Alvaro Siza, but the library building is similar in style to all other edifices of the campus. The library building can be seen from outside, taking photographs is not allowed inside (and as a visitor you can only enter the lobby). Although all my family liked the visit, being ignorants in modern architecture we could not understand the potential outstanding universal value of the place.
2017 Added to Tentative List
The site has 22 locations