2G Editors
Gustavo Gili | 1136-9647 | 2003 | PDF | 144 pages | 120 Mb

Part 1

Part 2


Portuguese architecture, and its place on the international scene, has been receiving a lot of attention in the specialised press for some time now. The work of such great Portuguese architects as Fernando Távora, Álvaro Siza and Gonçalo Byrne has formed generations of internationally known figures, figures like Eduardo Souto de Moura, Adalberto Dias, Carrilho de Graça and Álvaro Rocha.

The aim of this issue of 2G is to present the architectures of a generation of architects whose work opens up new perspectives on Portuguese architecture, despite the latter being usually submitted to the scrutiny of the masters. Young architects who would form a more or less homogeneous "third generation", one caught between its ongoing marginality in geographical terms and an attentiveness to what is happening on the international scene.


Ground line: Presenting a new generation of Portuguese architects. João Belo Rodeia
Notes on Some Portuguese Architects. Daniel de Castro Lopes

Works and Projects
Aires Mateus e associados
House in Alenquer.
Library, Audìtorium and Art Center, Sines.
Atelier Búgio
The Quinta da Casa Branca Inn, Madeira.
Pedro Falcão de Campos
House for Dr. Saravia Lima, Alcácer do Sal.
José Fernando Gonçalves
Interventíons on the Parish Church, Oliveira do Douro.
Cristina Guedes, Francisco Vieira de Campos
Faculty of Fine Arts block, Porto.
Inês Lobo, Pedro Domingos
Chancellery and Residence of the Portuguese Embassy in Berlin.
João Mendes Ribeiro
Tea House, Montemor-o-Velho.
Four stage designs.
Pedro Mendes
Renovation of an "Island", Porto.
António Portugal, Manuel Maria Reis
School of Advanced Technology and Management of Portoalegre Polytechnic Institute.
Paulo Providência
S. Nicolau baths and wash-houses, Porto.
Tomé Ribeiro Pavilion, Maia.
Serôdio & Associados
House for Manuel Dias, Paredes.
Two apartment blocks, Foz do Douro.
Vilela & Gordon
Residence for the Portuguese Embassy in Brasilia.


The legacy of the "verdant 1950's". Permanence and Change in Portuguese Architecture from the Postwar Period to the Revolution.
Ana Tostões


Notes on Some Portuguese Architects
Daniel de Castro Lopes

1.The current image of Portuguese architecture is a complex one; ideas that were once widely accepted have to be nuanced in order to conform to changes in the country.
Portugal's peripheral, artisanal and anachronous condition is becoming less evident, given that the economic boom of the last few years has privileged a not always well assimilated, accelerated modernisation of its territorial and economic structure. The imbalances existing in Portuguese society have been accentuated because of the passive adoption by part of the rising middle-class of foreign models, to the detriment of its own heritage and cultural references.

Designing architecture in Portugal is no longer an heroic creative profession -a situation created by Decree 73/73, which does away with the exclusivity of architects in the practice of architecture, reducing their field of action in practical terms to the mere authorial work for a cultured client-, but instead becomes an anonymous activity with a number of stipulated legal and technical responsibilities.
Portuguese architecture, centred on authors like Alvaro Siza, Fernando Tavora and Eduardo Souto Moura, and on their disciples, collaborators, masters or heirs, becomes increasingly rich and more complex when, in ten years, the number of qualified architects triples, dramatically enlarging the fields of actuation, sensibility and creative possibility.

The teaching of architecture, formerly restricted to a pedagogical model whose main axes were method and the master-disciple relationship, is broken up in twenty schools with a total of 9,000 students, all of which leads to the disintegration of teaching models and obliges the relationships in teaching to become more bureaucratic.
Under these new circumstances, the growing recognition of architecture is noteworthy, a recognition born of the media presence of its authors or the capitalisation of its economic-symbolic surplus value.

The large number of public competitions and the institutional support given to professional qualification as an aspect of quality, together with the increase in private commissions, are the most important consequences of this new situation.

2. Recent architectural output, both projectural and theoretical, conforms to this state of affairs. Young architects stand out for the clarity of their schemes and the coherence of their individual poetics. Most of them began their professional activity in the 1990s, and they largely constitute the changeover of generations within Portuguese architecture.

Yet they cannot be defined as a generation as such, since the coincidences between them are greater than the common choices, and consensus more important than personal bias. They form a network of active professionals (when not being activists, since they participate in different fields: teaching, publishing, specialised encounters, etc.) who share certain objectives, which does not prevent their trajectories from being extremely varied. Perhaps their most important "generational" characteristic is their respect for individual intellectual autonomy, along with open and disinterested collaboration, and the apparent absence of a group commitment begins and ends with society, since they reclaim a certain social and environmental activism for the practice of the project.

The standardised tastes that make up the cultural space in which architecture develops, the latter being understood as the most practical of the arts, is reflected in the set of images -which seem to constitute a new, purely mediatised, international style- that all use with greater or lesser purity, adapting these to new contexts.

3. Portuguese architecture has been generically defined by its tectonic quality (a mastery of materials and control of detail), by its composition (abstract, clear and precise), and by its topological skilfulness (the location as matrix). By focusing analysis on these categories, certain aspects can be discerned which, without forming a rigid norm, define the main axes of their thinking.

One thing they share is the realism of their schemes. A resistant praxis that mistrusts images and is based on the analysis of reality generates a semantic economy that focuses on the very construction of architecture. Without spurning plasticity, they set out -by means of an exacting compositional labour, sparing in effects and materials- to appeal to the senses and to emotion, although from the ground of reason. A refined materiality, born of craftsmanship and the relative scarcity of materials (industrialised ones, at least), has been updated with the generalisation of technologically more developed constructional solutions. Added to which, the use of materials or the control of details has undergone a certain revision: critical schemes are proposed without falling into constructional anecdote or the functional objet trouvé.

The dignifying of prefabricated materials or industrial constructional solutions through the careful handling of details and an optimisation of resources emerges in the buildings of Cristina Guedes and Francisco Vieira de Campos, given that due to the ephemeral nature of their programs they opt for an investigation of quality in terms of means that might, at first glance, seem limited.

An identical sort of research is evident in the work of Paulo Providência, who reformulates banal programs with extreme elegance and spatial richness, utilising materials in an unexpected way, decontextualizing these and hence ennobling the program or material employed.

The purifying of detail by reducing the use of materials and redefining these in relation to the overall spatial scheme can be seen in the buildings of José Fernando Gonçalves, where materials take on more abstract meanings due to their being used with enormous restraint.

The architectural composition based on spatial investigation or semantic expressivity has seemingly involuted, given that after the "semantic nightmare" of the 1980s buildings have been reduced to regular volumes, or their aggregations, in which geometrical clarity and the elemental nature of the mass takes precedence. This visual reduction to the essential displaces the object of projectural thinking towards the meanings of the physical components of the work of architecture.

The norm -or a structuring conception of the order- is taken on board as a creative point of departure, as a substitute for visual invention, in the projects of João Pedro Serôdio and Isabel Furtado, in their integral abstract models derived from mathematical rules which structure the design from its implantation to its details.

The limits of the semantic elements of architectonic language is investigated in the recent projects of Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus, who reflect on the dualities of wall/recess and mass/surface, concatenating complex spatial structures in simple volumes devoid of ornament or constructional showiness, proposing re-readings of the uses and the essence of space.

Aesthetics are addressed from the premise of constructional authenticity, thus avoiding the theatrical expedient, in the projects of Nuno Brandão Costa, who utilises the codes and logic of building systems as his main compositional tools.

An attentive reading of the external factors of the architectural project -location, program, construction, client, specification- has encouraged works of tremendous skill in their response to their surroundings. In an imploded territory submitted to tensions that occasionally admit of no solution, the defining of an autonomous territory is sought by means of bold abstract strategies.

The optimisation of the potentiality of both program and surroundings in the work of the Búgio Studio generates an order that structures and informs the project by maximising the external indices, suggestions and strictures.

The typological forcefulness of the construction of place in the buildings of Inés Lobo and Pedro Domingos, who seek to stabilise the surroundings by using their more expressive features to the full, in a Palladian conception of the architectonic opus, offers an architecture which avoids immediacy and leads to an active reading of its content.

Radicalness is displaced from praxis to the work: convictions and discourses are constructed and the profound meaning is gradually reclaimed of architecture as the setting and matrix of people's lives.

-Daniel de Castro Lopes

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