Architecture heaven?

The Porto School

Siza Vieira and Souto Moura are only two of many Portuguese architects who have been shaping the human landscape for the last decades. But they are world known and the two Portuguese architects to, so far, have won the Pritzker prize, the equivalent to the Nobel Prize for the field.

What some call the Porto School, comprises a few generations of architects that were taught in the “Faculdade de Belas Artes” (Fine Arts University), where the Faculty of Architecture originated. It represents mainly a paradigm shift from what was done during the dictatorship era and the new architecture that was being explored abroad. In Siza’s own words, it was started by Carlos Ramos, the Dean of the School between 1952 and 1967. It was pushed forward by the minds of many architects of that era but found its epithet in Fernando Távora (a teacher at those early days), Alcino Soutinho, Álvaro Siza Vieira and Souto Moura, amongst others.

A major deciding factor to this paradigm shift, were the travels that these architects did, both to visit the classical architecture in Europe (Greece, …) but also the emerging architecture of the USA (Frank Lloyd Wright, …) and Europe (Le Corbusier, The Bauhaus, …).

Távora was a keen traveller and made many trips to visit new architecture, since his early days as a student. For example, in the 1960’s, in the midst of a strict thinking dictatorship, he travelled to both US and Japan to see in loco this new architecture. From that way of life originated the Távora prize that every year gives this chance to an architect to accomplish the trip of his/her life.

Where to go? What to visit?

Many of these architects have significant works abroad, but it’s in Portugal that you can find works from the several stages of their career and of the ones that were influenced by, or that influenced them.

Some of that Architecture is very public and you can step in it or pass through it without even noticing, but a great part is private and accessible to only a few or under specific conditions.

Guias de arquitectura

http://guiasdearquitectura.com/ – are an online platform that issued paperback guides and an ebook and app which can guide you through the works of your favourite architects. I’m not sure if the project is still fully functioning or if you’ll be able to get your hands on any of the formats available, but it sure is the best way to plan your trip.

Recently, A+A launched a second guide that covers Architecture in the Porto from 1942 up until 2017, adding to the one about Lisbon (1948-2013).

Phaidon Atlas

Phaidon Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture - Travel Edition Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World ArchitecturePhaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture - Travel Edition

Another favourite of mine is “The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture” or the most recent “The Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture”. They come in a large hardback version to keep at home and a travel edition to keep with you on the go, but you’ll have to do some homework in order to find your way to your destination. On the up side, they do cover the whole world, and not just the one country.

Casa da Arquitectura

A product of my hometown, a city with many works from many of these architects, Matosinhos created an association which has been growing over the past years. First it was an archive which took care of the most emblematic works by Siza Vieira (both books and the buildings), then it refurbished the house where Siza’s family lived for the headquarters of an association called “Casa da Arquitectura”. Recently they moved into a completely refurbished quarter where they house an archive, museum, shop, and much more.

They are responsible for catering guided tours tailored for architects of all ages and are dedicated to promote architecture both in Matosinhos and throughout Portugal.

Location, location, location!

As with property value, location is key when visiting Architecture! Where should your base camp be? How should you go around?

For a viewing of both Siza and Souto Moura’s early works, you should come to Porto, where they studied and have most of their early works. While most of it can be reached with public transports, be prepared to rent a car and to wander around the neighbouring cities, most of which a day trip away.

If you are really into it, put aside a few days or a few weeks and travel the country as you can find iconic works from North to South of the country. Heck, you can even keep it going by heading into Spain.

Read our specialised articles to find out what are the most iconic and “can’t miss” constructions in each region, in our most humble opinion! 🙂

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