A recent visit to Portugal afforded the opportunity to look at three works from the long career of Alvaro Siza.
Boa Nova Tea House (Leça de Palmeira 1958-63)
This early work by Siza has survived a half-century without officious preservation. Its subtle relationship to its craggy site is matched by the delicacy of its organization and the robustness of its construction. The journey through the landscape continues in the inflection of the plan and nestling section. The influence of Japanese and Scandinavian architecture is manifested in the most Portuguese ways, particularly in the relationship to that alluring horizon glimpsed in a clerestory window as one pauses before descending to the principal rooms.
Faculty of Architecture (Porto 1987-93)
The Faculty of Architecture displays those same narrative qualities applied to an urban scale. Its panoramic location helps Siza frame views of the city and the River Duoro. The individual articulation of the studio blocks are supported by the plaza / podium and administrative wings which line the ascending journey through the building, by linear and curving ramps to the repository of architectural knowledge in the library.
Serralves Foundation (Porto 1995-99)
Again responding to the qualities of its situation, this Museum sits in a beautifully maintained park with views framed from the windows of its generously proportioned galleries. The sober monumentalism of its minimal detailing creates a sequence of abstract vistas that lead the visitor toward the spaces for contemporary art, and out into the garden. Here the white volumes stand as mute counterparts to the varied forms of a nature educated to be natural.
Despite the differences in scale and context of these three projects the element that gives them unity is the elaboration of the journey through the building, as if they are petrified traces of the linear drawings through which Siza represents the world.
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