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Joana Tavira
Aikaterini Zacharopoulou
23 January 2018
“To what extent has the creation of relationships between opposites been a solution to issues found in Alvaro Siza’s projects?”
Originally from Matosinhos, Portugal, Alvaro Siza Vieira, was merely 21 when he had built his first project in 1954. “I am not self-confined”, even though his style has been recognised as unique and rather personal, the architect defends that since the beginning of his career he has always been concerned about the same issues as many other architects and through many conversations and collaborations he has not followed trends or seen issues as trends but rather as a “constant flow of different architectural ideas and products”.
Nevertheless, his distinguished interpretation of architecture has led him to view existing issues as tools and facilitators instead of obstacles, “what interests me are the real limitations and difficulties, which is the material I use to build my projects.”. This method generated solutions through the creation of relationships between forms, ideas and images, but most importantly through the convergence of opposites. 
This essay will be focusing on the reconciliation of the following conflicting ideas Architecture and Nature/The Build object and the Landscape/ Modernity and Tradition. This analysis will be made mostly focusing the architects approaches and reasoning as it will also attempt to answer the question “To what extent has the creation of relationships between opposites been a solution to issues found in Alvaro Siza’s projects?”. 
The Pools in Leça da Palmeira (1961-1966,) is a clear example of how Siza has found design solutions by converging  Architecture and Nature. The Beach Leça, is located in the coast of Matosinhos (North of Porto, Portugal) and it is found in between the Atlantic Ocean and the highway access that follows the coast (Figure 1).  This work came as there was a need to design a new alignment for the Avenue in agreement with new pipeline channel parallel to the beach.  This project would focus on resolving local traffic issues (by constructing sufficient parking spaces) and developing leisure spaces, most importantly to restore the beach access. 
The program consisted of locker rooms, a café and two swimming pools, one for adults and one for children. The  architects approach to its design was by finding a clear relationship between the natural and the artificial / the coast and the ocean and the architecture and the city. He focused on the sites geometry and used it to recreate the natural/artificial differences and rework the presence of the boundary between the conflicting concepts. It was important for the architect that this boundary between Nature and construction was kept  as part of the conceptual idea behind the project. “I had to make the most of the rocks and complete the containment of the water with only the walls that were strictly necessary… the aim was to draw a geometry in that organic image.”
He found that this already set boundary: “a low, rendered stone wall that bordered a beach of rocks and sand” would be ideal for the placement of the pool buildings, however he found a constraint which acted as a catalyst for the project: lack of the depth. This was necessary for the access sequence that created a transition between the city and the natural environment. The first proposition to solve this issue was by challenging the paths using long walls which folded and refolded. 
This geometric decision, the creation of implied diagonals (perpendicular to the swivelled wall and parallel to each  other) was able to alter the experience of the user in both time and space, through a sequence of perceptual experiences (Figure 3): “the open view of the ocean from the promenade, the loss of this view when walking down the ramp, the entrance into the dark space of the changing rooms, the emergence into a long unroofed walled precinct (…) and finally the route amongst rocks, concrete platforms and steps to the pools themselves.” These  decision resulted into a project which takes advantage of the available natural environment and it manipulates its experience through the use of architecture without ignoring it but embracing it. 
The Borges & Irmão Bank  (1980-1986), is found in the old part of Vila do Conde, Porto, Portugal, a modest town crowned by monumental buildings including a cathedral and the Santa Clara convent. The project was set to be in a  narrow site, with a lateral pedestrian mall, planned to act as a connector between the Mercado (local market) and the Republica Squares, along a descending slope caused by the height difference between the front and back of the site. Siza had to adapt its project so that it would maintain the same alignment and equivalent volume to these neighbouring houses. 
Having to follow the abstract treatment and untraditional features that come with a modern building. As well as attributing the required weight of a bank within a town  (without overpowering the church and the convent which uphold a bigger civic weight in regards to the bank). Siza had to create once again a relationship between two existing factor, the build object and the landscape. This meant that the architect had to find the suitable scale to insert this building amongst the houses and the monumental buildings. 
In order to respect the alignment of the houses and differentiate itself, Siza created a building without a facade which presented the alignment with a single edge. Scale wise it was important that the building was given a certain grandiosity. The architects approach to achieve this without having to alter the real scale of the building was by adding elements which altered the users perspective. The creation of a curved parallelepiped box (by removing two corners and solely having two narrow sides – Figure 3), thus the elimination of narrow faces, magnified the interior of the building as it stopped the narrowness of the building from being sensed. The use of continuousness between the edges of the surrounding walls and the clustered arrangement of windows into glazed areas were also used to add the element of grandiosity without interrupting its landscape. This relationship between the interior and exterior has been widely explored by Siza, “A window’s position and shape is related to the interior use of the building, although in a historic context, it is also related to the pro- portions of the façade and the city’s rhythms”, 
In 1987, Alvaro Siza returned to Oporto School of Architecture as an architect instead of as a student. Here he decided to combine Modernity and tradition, the new and the old. The School of Architecture started in a pre-existing palace in  Quinta da Póvoa, it then moved into Siza´s Carlos Ramos Pavilion. The project consisted of 10 different volumes in which facilities for 500 students, an auditorium, administration, an exhibition hall and a library were included in the program.  
“He designed the college like a small town, taking advantage of the unevenness of the terrain to create more social, wider spaces, and more intimate spaces.” Siza thought that the best way to initiate this project was by creating an archeological like map, in which the allotments remaining walls were taken into consideration. The trace lines found in this map, interrelate with the various parts in the manner of the sketches of the Acropolis. In which the constituent units are found independent but also united by several links. 
From the entrance we can observe an opened space between two series of buildings. On the south side, free standing parallelepiped volumes, for offices and lecture rooms stand on the frontal alignment, facing the Douro River. The offices and auditorium follow this form whilst standing on the north side, at the end of the rear alignment. The smaller auditorium and the library however, have the exception of having a rectangular plan, to which they are tangent to the central building, the exhibition gallery, with a semicircular plan. 
“With all these autonomous buildings, supported and served by an architecturale promenade, Siza has not only designed a School of Architecture but has also built a portion of a city” Each element has an abstract treatment, while their arrangement gives them a classical effect: “In its absolute formal modernity, Siza’s work approaches the most urban aspect of timeless classicism as architecture that encourages a lifestyle shared by a community over time.”
This type of approach has been seen in projects in which Siza has to create a living and working environment. The  Setúbal Teacher Training College is an example of such with a higher focus on the outdoor areas and collective usage. The building has a classic structure of long wings with lecture xrooms and offices served by a corridor. Its entrance hall outlines two main courtyards with opened facades. The main courtyard has an entrance at the rear and porches with double height columns on both sides, set on a symmetrical axis. This lay out resembles the Heinrich Tessenow’s State School in Dresden, both belonging to timeless classicism, at different scales. However, Siza avoids these type of literal references and he then incorporates abstraction, hence the columns’ non-circular section and their alternated arrangement not only as the thin  edge of the top slab bearing no connections to classical design. As a way of abstracting this design he also opts for simple geometric forms and a general white rendering..
Concluding, through the brief study of these five case studies, built at different times and conditions throughout Siza’s career, it is safe to say that the prominent feature in most of his buildings (taking in consideration various factors), is the ‘promenade architecturale’: the felt sensations which one goes through when experiencing a building, the manipulation of light and spatial images. Siza has seem to master the ability of incorporating the building in the natural or urban context by respecting its original features and using them as tools to develop his own project.  
As previously explained in case studies, more specifically in The Pools in Leça da Palmeira and in the The Borges & Irmão Bank, it was important to create relationships. Through the usage of the existing wall of rocks – Nature – he found a design challenge and by understanding that he could use – Architecture –  to improve the  promenade architecturale of the user in this specific site he was able to create an experience which distinguished him from any other similar projects in the area or some may say in the country. For a project which had as its main problem low flow of users and intended to attract a bigger public, one would say that Siza managed to solve this issue through this practice . The same can be seen in The Borges & Irmão Bank, built solely on the bases of respecting and corresponding to its urban landscape.
These solutions however, are not solely made though connections between the object and the surroundings, they are also made through relationships between the modern and the traditional. In the cases of the universities there is a clear approach to the “most urban aspect of timeless classicism”. He attempts to use architecture that encourages a community to follow a specific lifestyle. By reinterpreting a program in a city-like organisational approach he can create hierarchies and experiences which would otherwise not be available. Although his adoption of old organisational concepts, such as the Acropolis, is clear and consistent, Siza’s ability to balance these by incorporating modern references is done masterfully.  It is this ability of producing such thorough observations and studies that distinguish the architect from many others, as Vittorio Gregotti said “Siza’s architecture makes one see, and it reveals rather than interprets the truth of the context.” 

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