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Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto, Portugal, 1997

I love that many of Álvaro Siza’s projects are for the further enrichment of his country of Portugal. The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, built upon a property that was once privately owned, is designed to incorporate the history of the site—an example of Siza’s attention to detail for the betterment of the community. The property was originally open to the public in 1987 as Serralves Park, but the 1997 addition of the Serralves Museum has further enhanced the function and public usage of the space, making it one of the most important cultural institutions in all of Portugal.


Before the addition of the museum the property consisted of two estates, Quinta do Lordelo and Quinta do Mata-Sete, and their gardens which date back to 1923. The original garden of Quinta do Lordelo, modeled after 19th century Victorian garden design, displayed flower-beds endowed with ornamental species. In 1932, Jacques Gréber was invited to design a new garden. Gréber’s design is “characterized by a mildly Art Deco, modernized classicism, influenced by French gardens of the 16th and 17th centuries, integrating several elements of the original garden, in particular the lake, together with the farming and irrigation structures” that had been previously gained with the merging of the Quinta do Lordelo and Quinta do Mata-Sete estates.


One significance of Gréber’s Serralves Garden is its consideration “to be one of the first examples of gardening art in Portugal of the first half of the twentieth century, and was the only garden built during this period by a private individual in Portugal, on the basis of a landscape architecture project.”


Siza’s museum design was informed by the surrounding landscape, and establishes a connection with the park as some of the art installations and sculptures can be found intermingled with the gardens. The 14-gallery building layout, clad in light colored wood, marble, and stone, allows for a play of light throughout the interior. The white stucco and pale gray stone of the exterior set against the greenery of the park is a refreshing contrast. Parts of this building remind me of the architecture of Le Corbusier, such as his Villa Savoye. Siza is a master of the manipulation of form, shaping the structure to identify with and respond its surroundings, revealing clarity, and originality. The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art is a lovely companion to its garden surroundings of which bear great historical significance to the local community and the history of their city.


A quote from Álvaro Siza—”What I appreciate and look for most in architecture is clarity and simplism. Simplicity and simplism are known to be opposites, just as unity and diversity are not. Simplicity results from the control of complexity and the contradictions of any programme […] Complexity and internal contradictions – external, also, when a new structure is confronted with what preceded and what surrounds it, taking on a not necessarily predictable destiny. For this reason, the more character a building has and the clearer its form, the more flexible its vocation.”


Citations from:

Auditorium Theatre of Llinars del Vallès, Spain, 2015

I feel that Álvaro Siza has a unique sense of how to fill a space. He is gifted in the usage of simple geometric forms to create something unexpected, clean, and beautiful in architecture. The Auditorium Theatre of Llinars del Vallès is an example of such talent. Siza was the leading architect for the design, partnering with Aresta Arquitectura.

The Auditorium Theater was built on the edge of Llinars del Vallès, a valley village which appears to be set in the foothills of the Serralada Litoral (a part of the Catalan Coastal Range), approximately 25 miles northeast of Barcelona. With what seems to be a limited fenestration, the public complex has been compared to the ruins of Turo del Montgròs, a neighboring fortress believed to have been a place of refuge for people and their herds dating back to the Bronze Age.

theater shape

The building takes on a different shape when viewed from different sides.

The Auditorium Theater consists of two main sections, the tallest being the 300-seat auditorium and the other serving as the administrative offices, dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, etc. The auditorium section consists of three levels—the stage technical support which is underground, the seating, and the stage. The administration section is two-stories.


Section plan pictured above

The building was commissioned as part of a new local investment in public cultural facilities, and is yet another example of Siza’s ability to incorporate the people of a place with the existing historical surroundings.

Chiado Renovation Project (beginning 1989), Lisbon, Portugal

The “Fire of Chiado” destroyed a historic commercial area of Chiado, Lisbon, in late August of 1988. Although it seems I can’t find much specific information about Álvaro Siza’s work in the Chiado area, I felt it was worthy of a post because it was this multifaceted Siza-led renovation project for which he was awarded the renowned Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1992. Notable in this renovation project is Siza’s design of a pedestrian path incorporating the presentation of historic architecture with modern design. The Carmo Convent is an important pre-existing architectural building which the pedestrian path surrounds. The convent was founded in 1389, with the completion of the church by 1423. The convent and church suffered major damage in 1755 due to an earthquake off the coast of Portugal. The convent was repaired over time, but the church was not. The church is now the Carmo Archaeological Museum.

carmo terrace

Another important aspect of the pedestrian path involves its connection to the Largo do Carmo square, which was the scene of some of the most turbulent moments in Portuguese history. The square was the location of a revolutionary event in the 1970’s, which aided in the collapse of a dictatorial regime allowing for the establishment of the democratic regime of modern Portugal. Siza’s pedestrian path is a multilevel walkway connecting the south portal of the Carmo Convent and the Carmo terraces to the Largo do Carmo square. The Carmo Convent stands as a monument of rich Portuguese history, and Siza’s pedestrian path puts the grandeur of the medieval architecture on display, making the area a walkable public space, and connecting it to the community. The Carmo Terrace was officially opened in 2015 on The Day of Portugal. I feel that Siza’s Chiado rehabilitation project heavily considers the importance of historic and public spaces, and their vitality and quality playing an important role in the knitting together of a community. Siza expertly links the two in this project creating new community spaces for the local residents and tourist alike.

Siza design chiado

Pictured above is more of the Chiado district restoration project.


Boa Nova Tea House (1963), Matosinhos, Portugal

The Boa Nova Tea house, designed by Portugal’s beloved architect Álvaro Siza, is another one of his greatest early works. The restaurant was constructed along the Leça de Palmeira beaches just north of the Leça swimming pools, also designed by Siza, which I previously posted about. The design concept is similar to that of the Leça swimming pools, in that Siza skillfully organized his designs to interplay with the existing beauty and terrain of the site. The Boa Nova Tea House compliments the site with its long straight lines of wood and concrete juxtaposed with the massive boulders jutting up all around it. An ideal example of architecture integrated with landscape. The restaurant’s layout takes full advantage of its surroundings. Large windows lining the guest dining areas can be fully opened offering customers both a magnificent seaside view of rocks, sky, and ocean and the accompanying breeze.


boa nova

Over time the restaurant was closed. Also, it was said to have been vandalized, with the more expensive building materials, such as copper, stolen. In recent years the restaurant has undergone renovation, under the direction of Siza himself, to restore the building to its original glory. The splendidly designed structure, now called Casa de Cha da Boa Nova, has been declared a National Monument, and is open to the public offering the delectable menu of Portuguese master chef Rui Paula.


Photo © Nelson Garrido

Piscinas de Marés (1966), Leça da Palmeira, Portugal

I haven’t even fully researched the work of architect Álvaro Siza and I’ve already found so many interesting designs by him. He is Portugal’s most celebrated architect, and he has just become one of my favorite as well.


Siza designed some public seaside swimming pools for Leça da Palmeira, near his hometown of Matosinhos (though technically the two cities—or parishes—have now merged into one.) The northern Portuguese beach line provides a large rocky terrain in which Siza has nestled the architecture of the two changing rooms, and a café that accompany the pools. When traversing a ramp that leads to the pools the concrete walls on either side shoot upward, blocking the view of the ocean, and leaving one to revel in a sensory process involving the sky above and the sound of the ocean. There are two pools, a large somewhat square shaped adult pool and a U-shaped children’s pool. I love the clean and simple geometric lines of the building and the adult pool, and how they are juxtaposed with the natural rock, merging together in some places. In aerial views of the vicinity the blue pool water is a great contrast to the deep dark ocean. It seems that one large wave could easily swallow up the whole thing, if not for the great rocks jutting out of the sea bed separating the two. There is no doubt that this facility has been a jewel to the surrounding community for many years.

“Bonjour Tristesse” apartments, Schlesische Straße, Berlin

hello sadness

The city of Berlin was left in shambles after the air raids of World War II. An urban renewal project called the International Building Exhibition Berlin was devised in the 1980’s to rebuild parts of the city that had been destroyed. The apartment building, Wohnhaus Schlesisches Tor, was Álvaro Siza Vieira’s contribution to this revitalization movement, and also his first work outside of his country. The building is commonly known as Bonjour Tristesse (French for “Hello Sadness”) due to graffiti marking the top front of the building. Bonjour Tristesse was not the first re-build in its location after the war’s destruction. First there were some small store fronts which did not fit in well with the surrounding architecture, nor did they provide any desperately needed housing. The store fronts were removed for Siza, whose design featured store fronts on the ground level and social housing above. When I first looked at this building, the curved facade immediately reminded me of Antoni Gaudí’s work, such as his Casa Milà (popularly known as La Pedrera), an apartment building he designed in Spain. It makes me wonder, to what extent did the work of Gaudí, a man who was from Spain, influence the work and education of Siza, who was from Portugal? Surely every architect knows Gaudí well.

The image below shows the small store fronts which did not match the architecture of their surroundings.

small store fronts

Information and images credited to this article:

Home on Junction Drive, Norman, OK

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Four of my six blog posts so far have been of people’s homes, and this one makes five. I clearly love private dwelling places. They are very personal, intimate spaces, that hold memories and reveal the personalities of those residing within them. This last dwelling place is that of my maternal grandparents. The home sits on 10 acres dotted with sweet gum, oak, and maple trees. The pasture which lies to the north holds a stable and an oversized shed. My grandmother designed the home and drew the blueprints herself. The house burned down around 1990, and they promptly rebuilt the same plan with slight adjustments according to my grandmother’s specifications (I know she wanted larger closets!). The original plan had a sunroom full of plants. This room—a small jungle, an indoor garden—was my favorite. The new plan though did not have the sunroom, and instead provided added space to the master bedroom. The house is very large with a variety of flooring, depending on the room (wood, marble, tile, or carpet), throughout. The interior walls are either painted or wallpapered and vary in texture. The exterior is a red brick with a paneled gabling of a special material in which the woodpeckers cannot damage. The home is two story—the lower half consisting of the bedrooms and main living spaces, while the upper part consists of a second living room, an art studio, a weight room, a play room, and full bath. Another favorite of mine is a solar paneled shed on the east side (different from the shed in the pasture) surrounded by my grandmother’s elaborate goldfish ponds and gardens. The solar panels power the water heater for the home. The second picture is of me (with my dad) standing on the shed during construction. I have many aunts, uncles, and cousins, so family gatherings were a massive event at my grandparent’s home. The house may be up for sale in the next ten years or so, and it will be the end of an era for my family.

My Childhood Home, 2713 Briarcliff, Norman, OK 73071

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I had moved three times by the age of four, but the fourth house was the last move for us as a family. I am not fond of the actual architecture; the previous houses were much more lovely. It’s definitely not impressive in appearance—in fact I find it quite ugly—but the house stood strong through the years, housing a family of seven, and holds many memories both good and bad. It withstood the raising of five wild children and still stands as it was, with the exception of new counter tops, new flooring, new sinks, new toilets, new siding on the gables, new paint both inside and out, new stain on the woodwork and cabinets, and all new doors and windows. Okay, that’s a lot of new things, but I suppose there is a thing called good bones when talking about a structure. I think this house is an example of such.

My Grandparent’s House, Dean Drive, Washington, OK 73093

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My grandparents lived in Washington, OK, for the majority of my life. Although I did live there for a short while when I was very young, my memories are mostly of visiting on holidays. The house was built at the top of a hill, and at the bottom was the elementary school. I would watch through the back doors for my sister to walk home from school. The back yard was not lined with a fence, but enclosed with pine trees. I played hide and seek in those trees with my many siblings and cousins. I loved the smell of my grandparent’s home—the pine trees and flowering bushes outside; inside the aroma of antique furniture, and the smells which accompany the preparation of a feast—ham and cloves, corn with onions and peppers—all come to mind. All of the rooms in the house rival as my favorite, and really, I think it’s my grandmother’s décor that made each room so special. My granddad was a professor at OU, and his study was impressive and smelled of books. The hallway wall was covered in tiny pictures with old family photos in antique frames. The brick floored kitchen opened to a cozy dining room with a bay window and a fire place. Each of the four bedrooms was ornately decorated. I think my grandmother loved tiny things—so many tiny things, marvelous things, which delighted the eye of an exploring child, atop every ledge, shelf, dresser, and table. The windows were covered with wooden shutters with tiny metal latches on the interior, adding to the uniqueness. The front door seemed larger to me than most. My grandmother and grandad always greeted us with warm hugs in the entryway, which held a mirrored side table covered in pictures, letters, and greeting cards and a magnificent grandfather clock. I went through old photos and could not find a decent picture of the front of my grandparent’s house, so a more current image of the home from a google maps screen shot will have to suffice. The second picture is of my granddad in his book-lined study schooling me in a game of chess.

My Current Home


I love this little house, and what it means for me. I feel like many women in my position do not own a home. This house represents my independence, and my ability to provide for my family. Buying the house was a defining moment for me. My son has his own room and bathroom. The master bedroom, master bath, and the study are mine. The living room is large and open to the dining room. The back of the house is lined with six windows, which I love. I can swing open my curtains and let the natural light fill the space. I have painted different walls throughout the home various shades of blue or green, which helps create a dreamy and peaceful atmosphere. I learned that I am naturally drawn to certain shades of color, and therefore I have a very clear color scheme in  which I was completely unaware of until a visitor pointed it out to me. I chose the brick and paint color for the exterior, and the carpet and tiles for the interior. I painted my front door a blue that I love. The design of the home maximizes the usage of space—it’s 1200 square feet but most people are surprised because the inside seems larger than that. I take pride in my home, and love to share it with others.