In 2011, Eduardo Souto de Moura became the second Portuguese architect to win the celebrated Pritzker Prize. The journey from an architect practicing in native Portugal to accepting projects in different parts of Europe is adventurous, enthralling, and a source of inspiration to many.
The following extract aims to capture the life and philosophy of the illustrious architect right from his early beginnings to leaving an indelible mark till today.
Life in Porto
Born to a doctor and a homemaker, Eduardo, and his siblings grew up in the city of Porto, a World Heritage Site. The city is a unique composition of Romanesque Cathedrals, vibrant streets, and an exotic coastline informing its architecture. Initially, the legendary architect studied sculpture in the then Porto Higher Institute of Fine Arts.
However, a chance encounter with Donald Judd in Zurich encouraged young Eduardo to study architecture. In his institutional years, Eduardo worked as an apprentice for Noe Dinis and Alvaro Siza. It was in these early years he received his first commission—a market project in Braga.
Market of Barga
The market in the municipality of Barga draws inspiration from the timeless pavilions of Mies Van Der Rohe. Situated at the intersection of two orthogonal axes, the former market was ‘a walled farm in the center of the city’.
As the architect quotes, the market appeared like “a house on the hill”. Interpreting the project as an urban planning mediation, the market resembled a ‘covered street’ forming an ‘urban grid’. Over the years this modern edifice transformed from an agora to a bridge—a necessary connection between two city axes.
In 1980 won a competition for designing Casa Das Artes, a cultural center blending with neoclassical landscapes of the city of Porto. This exhibitory venture paved the way for Eduardo’s independent architectural practice. The initial phase of his career was dominated by modest residences in Portugal followed by designing shopping centers, art galleries, schools, and cinemas in Spain, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Mirroring the swift prominence in commissions, on several occasions, the architect was invited to teach at Harvard University, ETH Zurich, EPFL Lausanne, and many prestigious institutions.
Relationship with Alvaro Siza
Souto de Moura suggests that his work is inspired by the modern marvel Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his mentor and friend Alvaro Siza, a Pritzker Prize winner. As an architectural student, de Moura worked with Siza and learned the fundamentals of a profound profession. On completing his graduation, it was Siza who encouraged him to establish an independent practice.
Later in life, the two men enjoyed each other’s company, teaming up to design the Portuguese pavilion at Expo 2000, in Hanover, Germany, and the Serpentine Gallery’s annual summer pavilion in 2004.
“There is no ecological architecture, no intelligent architecture, and no sustainable architecture – there is only good architecture. There are always problems we must not neglect. For example, energy, resources, costs, social aspects – one must always pay attention to all these.”
— Eduardo Souto de Moura
Unlike many architects, de Moura always advocated the unison of various aspects of architecture. He proposed a holistic outlook towards the building processes enabling him to fuse and blur boundaries as required. This rare attribute manifested itself into blending minimalism with a multitude of non-minimalistic elements.
As the array of de Moura’s projects was characterized by neat lines, strong geometric compositions balanced by abstract elements like color and textures of materials.
1. Santa Maria do Bouro Convent
Completed in 1997, de Moura invested eight years in the restoration of the Santa Maria do Bouro, a half-destroyed 12th Century monastery in Amares. The existing ruined abbey exhibited an uncompromising order and a restraining aesthetic was converted into a luxury resort. The underlying principles involved the implication of a historic context and the introduction of new forms, functions, and materials.
Conservation and remodeling of a heritage site in Amares was a turning point in de Moura’s architectural oeuvre. It not only exposed the young architect to a seamless expression of materials but also paved the way for many esteemed projects.
2. Paula Rego Museum
Reinterpreting the nearby Palace of Sintra in a contemporary manner, the Paula Rego Museum is heavily influenced by the celebrated architecture of Portugal. As quoted by the artist Paula Rego, the complex ought to be ‘fun, lively and also a bit mischievous’.
As a result, the museum was designed in the form of two unusual pyramid-shaped towers cast in red concrete. The remaining volumes vary in spans and depths oriented towards a central courtyard for housing temporary collections. The blazing red color, herringbone imprints, and existing mature trees impart timelessness to a modern institution.
3. Municipal Stadium of Braga
Situated in the northern part of Braga, the Municipal Stadium of Braga is the seventh-largest stadium in Portugal. Inspired by the ancient South American Incan bridges, the stadium consists of a canopy-style roof connected by dozens of steel strings.
The stadium is carved from a quarry overlooking the city of Barga, having stands strategically positioned on either side of the pitch and the goalposts sculpted from rock walls of the quarry. On one side, the stadium is limited by the quarry whereas, on the other side, the complex opens up to a spectacular view of the city.
In 1998, de Moura received the Pessoa Prize, for his contribution to the Portuguese culture. Then, the internationally acclaimed architect was awarded the Pritzker Prize, popularly known as the Nobel prize of architecture in 2011 followed by the Wolf’s Prize in Arts by the government of Israel in 2013.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize jury cited de Moura’s work as ‘effortless, serene and simple’. He also received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Architecture and Arts at the Lusiada University of Porto leaving behind a celebrated legacy.
The Pritzker Architecture Prize. (n.d.). The Pritzker Architecture Prize. Eduardo Souto de Moura I The Pritzker Architecture Prize. Retrieved June 13, 2021, from https://www.pritzkerprize.com/laureates/2011
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Casa das Histórias Paula Rego. Casa das Histórias Paula Rego – Wikipedia. Retrieved June 13, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_das_Hist%C3%B3rias_Paula_Rego
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Eduardo Souto de Moura. Eduardo Souto de Moura – Wikipedia. Retrieved June 10, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo_Souto_de_Moura
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Estádio Municipal de Braga. Estádio Municipal de Braga – Wikipedia. Retrieved June 13, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Est%C3%A1dio_Municipal_de_Braga#Architecture
“SANTA MARIA DO BOURO CONVENT / Eduardo Souto de Moura + Humberto Vieira” 24 Jun 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed 13 Jun 2021. <https://www.archdaily.com/768833/santa-maria-do-bouro-convent-eduardo-souto-de-moura-plus-humberto-vieira> ISSN 0719-8884