Spotlight: Álvaro Siza
One of the most highly regarded architects of his generation, Portugese architect Álvaro Siza (born 25 June 1933) is known for his sculptural works that have been described as “poetic modernism.” When he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1992, Siza was credited as being a successor of early modernists: the jury citation describes how “his shapes, molded by light, have a deceptive simplicity about them; they are honest.”
Born in Matosinhos near Porto, as a child Siza wanted to become a sculptor, a predilection that shows itself in his work to this day. However, a trip to Barcelona convinced him to become an architect when he experienced the work of Antoni Gaudí. This sculptural architecture he then knits into its context, connecting his buildings with the site and the culture masterfully.
A well-known quote by Siza asserts that “architects don’t invent anything, they just transform reality,” and this might explain the logic behind Siza’s restrained style. His work builds on the established models of the Modernists who held sway at the start of his career—and even while the reputation of Modernism has risen and fallen in the years since, Siza has remained largely unaffected by the experimental and transitory movements of the period, instead preferring to subtly, gradually transform his style over the decades.
Siza first gained recognition in the 1960s with his Leça Swimming Pools and his Boa Nova Tea House, and has remained hugely influential ever since: among his most respected works is his gravity-defying Portuguese National Pavilion for the 1998 Expo; his Fundação Iberê Camargo was a joint winner of the first ever Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP) in 2014; and at the 2012 Venice Biennale he both completed an exhibition pavilion and was awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement.
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