Pritzker winner, Álvaro Joaquim de Melo Siza Vieira GOSE GCIH GCIP, internationally known as Álvaro Siza is an architect from the small coastal town of Matosinhos, Portugal. He is one of the most decorated architects in the world. Being entirely different from other renowned architects, Alvaro Siza works with a small team and is not on board with computer-aided design and websites. 

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Álvaro Siza_©Arquitecturaviva

Siza is known as the successor of the early modernists. “Like the early Modernists, his shapes, shaped by light, have a deceptive simplicity about them; they are honest,” according to the panel report for his 1992 Pritzker Prize. 

Other than the extraordinary buildings breaking the monotony, here are 10 things that you didn’t know about Álvaro Siza:

1. Interest in sculpting

As a child, Siza always wanted to become a sculptor, but his father’s opposition and drift in interest led him to an architecture program at the Porto Fine Arts School in 1949. With his uncle’s constant encouragement, Siza started to draw and sign on his drawings. This interest later developed to sculpting, but his father disagreed with studying sculpting as he considered it an overly bohemian life. 

To avoid the conflict, Siza joined the Architecture program of the School of Fine Arts, as he thought he could easily transfer to sculpture, but later, he developed a love for architecture. Later on, his love for sculpting is predominantly seen in his buildings. 

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Álvaro Siza Sculpture exhibition_© António Choupina, Andreu Alfaro & Álvaro Siza

2. His father was an engineer

Álvaro Siza’s father Júlio Siza Vieira was an engineer by profession. With 12 members in the family, Álvaro Siza had support and love for his art and artworks. Although his father objected to the idea of studying sculpting, his father never pushed him towards technical subjects. 

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During one of Siza’s Interview_©Miguel Galiano

3. First Work

With one year left for graduation, Álvaro Siza finished his first built work: The Four houses in Matosinhos. It is a culmination of multiple architecture styles of world-famous architects that brings together the compartment-type bedroom and the fluidity around it. Siza’s first client, Fernando Neto, has lived in the house since 1957. There had been a lot of criticism and accusations, like lack of attention faced by Siza after the construction of The Four Houses. But as a user Fernando Neto adored the houses and discarded the criticism by saying, “time would tell.”

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The Four Houses_©CASA DA ARQUITECTURA

4. Lack of contracts

Siza had warned in 2012 that he would shut his Portuguese office due to a lack of contracts. But in the same year, he was awarded the 13th Venice Biennale Lifetime achievement and created a structure in the gardens of the Arsenale, collaborating with Eduardo Soto de Moura, another Portuguese architect. 

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2012 Venice Bienalle_©Nico Saieh

5. Donation of works

Siza announced in July 2014 that he would be donating a major fraction of his architectural archive to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to allow his materials “accessible alongside the work of other modern and contemporary architects,” as well as particular project archives to the Fundação Gulbenkian in Lisbon and the Fundação de Serralves in Porto, Portugal.

“It is my hope that the work of these years is in any useful way, as a contribution to the study and debate on architecture, particularly in Portugal,” said Siza.

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Álvaro Siza 6_©Studio Siza

6. Works all over the world

His works can be found in nations such as Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Korea, Belgium, the United States, and many more, from America to Asia. The list of his buildings exceeds the list of 50. About 25 of his works are in Portugal, ranging from Beires House built in 1964 to the recent one Abade Pedrosa Museum built in 2017.

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Beires’ House_©Area arch
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Abade Pedrosa Municipal Museum_©Joao Morgado

7. Chiado

Nesting in the historic centre of Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, Chiado is a cultural and economic district recognized for its high-end shopping, historic structures, and a plethora of theatres and museums. A fire devastated the Chiado neighbourhood in 1988. The Chiado has recovered and becomes one of Portugal’s most desirable real estate markets, thanks to an enormous restoration effort led by Pritzker-winning architect Álvaro Siza Vieira.

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The Grandes Armazens do Chiado_©Threeohsix

8. Many Awards 

Pritzker Prize in 1992, Mies van der Rohe Prize in 1988, National Architecture Prize in 1993, Alvar Aalto Medal in 1998, Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal in 2009, the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennial in 2002 for best project, and the Golden Career Lion in 2012 are some of the awards received by   Álvaro Siza. and more recently, Siza Vieira was awarded the Gr-Cruz da Ordem da Instrução Pública. 

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Álvaro Siza receiving Gold Medal for Architecture from The Queen of England_©Independent UK

9. The Library of Viana do Castelo

Between the Lima River and Marginal Street is where this library is located. The structure is part of an urban plan by Fernando Távora that includes a multipurpose building, two office towers, and a square with a 1974 revolution monument. It’s a two-story square structure with an elevated volume that includes a void and an L-shaped volume that extends eastward on the first level. The first story houses the library offices, events area, and lounge, while the second floor houses the reading rooms. The National Contemporary Architecture Award was given to this project.

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Sketches of Library Viana do Castelo_©Rafael Sousa Santos

10. Doctor Honoris Causa

Álvaro Siza is also Doctor Honoris Causa of several universities including Doctor “Honoris Causa” by University of Valencia (1992), École Polithécnique Fédérale de Lausanne (1993), Palermo University (1995), Menendez Pelayo University, Santander (1995), Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería de Lima, Peru (1995), University of Coimbra (1997) and Universidade Lusada (1999), Federico II University, Napl (2001). (2007) around the world, having also received this title at the University of Aveiro, in 2011, on the occasion of its 38th anniversary. 

Álvaro Siza Vieira_©Manuel de Sousa

References

the Guardian. (2008). Jonathan Glancey on why Álvaro Siza’s RIBA Gold Medal is well-deserved. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2008/oct/08/alvaro.siza.riba.prize.

Famous Architects. (n.d.). Álvaro Siza Vieira Architect | Biography, Buildings, Projects and Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.famous-architects.org/alvaro-siza-vieira/ [Accessed 5 Sep. 2021].

Aveiro, U. de (n.d.). honoris-causa-siza-vieira. [online] Universidade de Aveiro. Available at: https://www.ua.pt/en/honoris-Causa-siza-vieira [Accessed 5 Sep. 2021].

Anon, (n.d.). Alfaro Siza exhibition – aasarchitecture. [online] Available at: https://aasarchitecture.com/2018/05/alfaro-siza-exhibition.html/ [Accessed 5 Sep. 2021].

Viva, A. (n.d.). Álvaro Siza: [online] Arquitectura Viva. Available at: https://arquitecturaviva.com/articles/lo-que-me-gustaba-era-la-escultura [Accessed 5 Sep. 2021].

2018.openhouseporto.com. (n.d.). Open House Porto – Four Houses. [online] Available at: https://2018.openhouseporto.com/en/places/quatro-casas/ [Accessed 5 Sep. 2021].

www.metalocus.es. (n.d.). Álvaro Siza donates his archives to the Gulbenkian, Serralves and the CCA | The Strength of Architecture | From 1998. [online] Available at: https://www.metalocus.es/en/news/alvaro-siza-donates-his-archives-gulbenkian-serralves-and-cca [Accessed 5 Sep. 2021].

OM-Light. (2021). OM-Light. [online] Available at: https://www.om-light.com/en/project/viana-do-castelo-municipal-library [Accessed 5 Sep. 2021].

Author

Devika Bhaskaran is an architecture student with absolute love for writing, poetry and travelling. She believes that there are beautiful and mind-blowing untold stories within people and places and she hopes to be a voice for the same. She is in a constant search for architectural wonders that are accessible to all kinds of humans.

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