Álvaro Siza Vieira 1933 –
Álvaro Siza was born in Matosinhos, a small town north of Porto, in 1933 and graduated in architecture from the Porto University of Porto in 1955. He set up his first practice a year before graduating, completing his first built work a year later, consisting of four houses in his hometown.
Siza taught at the University of Porto in the 1960s and ‘70s. He has also served as visiting professor at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, the Los Andes University in Bogotá and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL).
Siza’s design commissions range in size from swimming pools to large residential complexes. They include private houses, banks, office buildings, restaurants, museums, stores and university buildings. Most of his best-known works are located in or around Porto. These include the 1963 Boa Nova Tea House on the shore of Leça de Palmeira, which Siza redesigned as a 50 years later as a restaurant, and the Piscina das Marés, a strongly topographical public outdoor swimming pool built into a natural rock formation on the seashore. Others include the University of Porto Faculty of Architecture’s iconic new buildings (1986-1993) and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (1999), which is set beautifully into a surrounding park.
Also located in Porto are SAAL Bouça and SAAL São Victor, two social housing areas that Siza designed after the Portuguese revolution in the 1970s for the national housing association, Servicio de Apoio Ambulatorio Local (SAAL). At the time, these areas, made up of multi-level, larger-than-usual maisonettes, were only partially completed. Since then, Bouça was gentrified, renovated and finally completed in the 2000s, while the São Victor terraced houses were demolished.
Siza’s most recent projects are a 2015 museum in Chaves, Portugal, dedicated to artist Nadir Afonso, based on his geometric style (2015) and the Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande Church in Brittany, France. This new church, with a hall that rises above the ground level to the second floor and which takes advantage of natural light, which is to be completed by the end of 2017.
Siza has also successfully participated in design competitions around Europe. His partners over the years have included Fernando Távora, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Juan Domingo Santos and Rudolf Finsterwalder.
Siza originally intended to become a sculptor. His style may be seen as poetic modernism, an extension of modernist principles and aesthetics. His design portrays respect for local traditions, times, the surrounding nature and broader context, adapting the shapes of buildings into them, exploiting natural light, taking special relationships into account at all scales, as well as continuous studying and experimentation.
Other honours bestowed on Álvaro Siza include the Mies van der Rohe Award (1988), the Pritzker Prize (1992), the Praemium Imperiale (1998), the Wolf Prize (2001), the RIBA Royal Gold Medal (2009), the UIA Gold Medal (2011) and the Venice Architecture Biennale Golden Lion (2002) and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (2012).