Note: This studio is being offered in concert with Architecture 302 from Rice University taught by Professor Carlos Jimenez. We will travel together with students and faculty from Rice University, and will be working on essentially the same site and with the same building program.
“The essence of each city arises from an age-old alchemy, almost inexplicable and beyond Geography and recorded History, from the weight of its very materials. Echoes of cross-fertilizations transform cities slowly and gradually, or suddenly. They collide, they dissolve in the interstices of the origins, they impress us, we who drag with us other waves.
All cities are my city, to which I always return.
Everything is different then, because I know what is different. My eyes open to my city, I am once again an astonished stranger, capable of seeing: of doing.”
Alvaro Siza “The City”, Writings on Architecture, 1997
Center for Portuguese Culture
Architecture has the capacity to extend both the physical and social faculties of those who experience it, and as such, it can also be understood as a mechanism to build the culture of a place. The practice of architecture within cultural programs is the project of a building, the project of the institution it hosts, and the project of the city it defines. Here, architecture plays a fundamental role: it is the device to expand our collective culture as well as the understanding of the place in which we live.
Architects are increasingly being asked to address the urgent demands of global urban expansion and its constituencies with deft, agile designs supported by insightful research. This advanced studio aims to engage the pressing architectural and urban questions that constantly affect a global public. Students are asked to think broadly about the role architects can play as global practitioners through research and analysis that focuses on the formulation of a building design project. This spring semester, the studio centers around a project in Oporto and research trip to Lisboa (Lisbon) and Oporto (Porto), Portugal. Students will explore the particulars of a program, a site, a city; and study the persisting urban questions that underpin any practice in such a charged context. The project entails the design of a Center for Portuguese Culture in Oporto, in a dense urban setting overlooking the Duoro River, and in close proximity to the city’s main school of architecture (FAUP) designed by the renowned architect and native son Alvaro Siza de Vieira (1933-).
Our trip to Portugal’s two main cities: Lisboa, its capital, and Oporto will expose students to the rich, multifarious architecture/urbanism of this intriguing country at the eastern edge of the Iberian Peninsula. The two cities are blessed by an almost matching confluence of geographical features, historical circumstances and urban ingenuities. The one-week trip (February 01-February 09) is designed to provide as much immersion in Portuguese urban and cultural life as possible. We will start with a three-day visit to Lisboa and then move northward to Oporto where we will spend the remaining four days of our trip. Students will visit different types of cultural centers as well as the fabled architecture school at the FAUP. We will also visit relevant works by such renowned Portuguese architects as Aires Mateus, Gonzalo Byrne, Joao Luis Carrilho da Graca, Alvaro Siza, and Eduardo Souto de Moura, among others. One of the many highlights of our trip will be a visit to Matosinhos: birthplace of Alvaro Siza and location of his earlier and influential works such as A Pool in the Sea (1966). Other visits are to key works by Souto de Moura (Casa das Historias Paula Rego), Siza’s astonishing Portuguese Pavilion for Expo 98, and the just completed Ferry Terminal for Lisboa, where we will meet its architect Joao Carrilho da Graca for a tour of the premises.
Equally important to our trip is exposure to the life and rituals of these cosmopolitan cities through a sampling of an array of local experiences including the food, music and dynamic art scene. In Lisboa, we will have the opportunity to visit such landmarks as the Castillo de San Jorge, the Alfama and Chiado neighborhoods, Rossio’s Great Square and Plaza do Comercio, the Thalia Theater. We will see The Jeronimos Monastery in Belem. Finally, in Oporto we will visit the iconic Casa da Musica by OMA/Rem Koolhaas, the intriguing Serralves Foundation Museum and grounds by Siza, and the Casa das Artes, an exquisite earlier work by Souto de Moura.
Studio Brief: The studio project concerns the design of a Center for Portuguese Culture (C.P.C.)to be located on a corner site overlooking the Douro River. The C.P.C.’s mission is to promote, study and disseminate the various contributions of such key Portuguese figures as Fernando Pessoa (poet), Jose Saramago (writer, 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature), Manoel de Oliveira (filmmaker), Amalia Rodrigues (singer-songwriter), Paula Rego (visual artist), Madredeus (singer-songwriters) and Alvaro Siza (architect, 1992 Pritzker Prize Laureate) among several others. The design of the 50,000 square foot building (+/-) provides all necessary administrative and public spaces for the C.P.C.’s day-to-day operations (lobby, offices, receptions hall, classrooms, press room, exhibition areas, multipurpose room, 200 seat cinema/theater, and a combination of indoor / outdoor spaces for reception and exhibition purposes).
Portugal, though one of Europe’s smaller countries, is nonetheless a cultural giant in its own right. The peninsular nation, both the geographical beginning of Europe, and its farthest western edge; is a kingdom that once ushered intrepid, legendary navigators and explorers across the seven seas, from Vasco da Gama to Ferdinand Magellan. Portugal is also a land of indelible artists best rendered by the enigmatic, visionary poet Fernando Pessoa, a marvelous writer who cast the vast existential realms of the Portuguese character to the forefront of world literature.
The C.P.C.’s mission can be understood as a multipurpose cultural enterprise, one that aims to study, promote, educate and expand on the distinct contributions that Portugal has given and continues to give to the culture of the world. Thus the C.P.C. constitutes an endeavor with global ambitions, one that also highlights Lisboa and Oporto as places redolent of past and future histories, nuances, vectors, intersections, pauses, continuities, references, and discoveries. In other words: it is a full encounter with the life of the city and its global reach.