Álvaro Siza’s Archaeology of the Ordinary

The Welfare State and Politics of Urban Renewal in 1980s Europe
Talk, in English, 26 November 2015
Nelson Mota: Álvaro Siza’s Archaeology of the Ordinary

Following an intense period of work in the mid-1970s with Portugal’s post-revolutionary housing initiatives, in the early 1980s Álvaro Siza contributed projects to two of the most important urban renewal programs in Europe: Berlin’s IBA and The Hague’s Stadsvernieuwing als Kulturel Aktiviteit (Urban Renewal as a Cultural Activity). This lecture will examine the instrumental role that the assimilation of vernacular social and spatial practices played in Siza’s housing projects for these two cities. Focusing on the projects Bonjour Tristesse in Berlin and Punt en Komma in The Hague, it will propose the notion of an archaeology of the ordinary as a fundamental component in Siza’s work at the point of encounter between populism and dogma, and between the architect’s ambition to design for the people and the Welfare State’s insistence on conformity.

Nelson Mota is Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at TU Delft. He was the recipient of the Fernando Távora Prize in 2006 and authored the 2010 book A Arquitectura do Quotidiano (The Architecture of Everyday). His research focuses on the relationship between vernacular social and spatial practices and the architecture of dwelling. Since 2013, Mota has been a guest scholar at the Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and Urban Design. He is the production editor and a member of the editorial board of the academic journal Footprint.

Álvaro Siza with residents of the Schilderswijk neighbourhood at the Spatial Development Laboratory (ROL), 1986. Courtesy of Adri Duivesteijn/STROOM Den Haag. Photograph © Fred van der Burg

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