Fonds Álvaro Siza
The Álvaro Siza fonds documents the architectural work of Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza. Records in this fonds document Siza’s projects from 1958-2012, including built and unbuilt designs. A collaborative project was established between the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Fundação de Serralves, and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian to allow for international research and access to the archive. The archive is shared by the three institutions with each institution holding different projects while collaborating on the descriptive work and increasing the visibility of the archive. The holdings at both the Fundação de Serralves and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian focus on Siza’s Portuguese projects, while the portion of the archive held by the CCA mainly includes Siza’s projects abroad. All three institutions are committed to describing the archive and making it accessible for scholarly research.
The processing of the Siza archive held by the CCA has been divided into four phases to allow for access to parts of the archive while still in process. For the first, second, and third phases, the processing archivist has described the projects from the fifties, sixties, and seventies, as well as projects for the IBA competition in Berlin, urban renewal projects in The Hague from the eighties, urban plans, museums, and individual houses between 1980 and 2000. The processing archivist has also described approximately 203 sketchbooks. Many of these sketchbooks include sketches related to architectural projects which were processed. The complete list of projects processed by the CCA to date can be found in series AP178.S1.
The bulk of the Álvaro Siza fonds is arranged in Series AP178.S1, which contains documentation for over 200 of Siza’s architectural projects. Records in this archive are predominantly from 1970 to 2000. Series AP178.S1 mainly contains conceptual, design development, presentation, and working drawings. Also included are photographic materials, models, born digital records, and textual documentation, which include correspondence, project proposals, and notes. The architect’s creative process is captured in 282 sketchbooks arranged in Series AP178.S2.
In all there are approximately 60 000 drawings, 3000 folders of textual documentation, 9.46 linear meters of photographs and negatives, 6,545 slides, 250 CD-ROMS, 101 floppy disks, and 371 models that document the architectural activities of Siza and his office. Among the drawings are sketches by Siza on various items, such as napkins, receipts, envelopes, or on the back of working drawings. The fonds contains several types of architectural projects including residential buildings, museums, universities, urban plans, offices, and city restorations.
Of particular significance are the sketchbooks, comprised of sketches for architectural projects, Siza’s travels, people, and animals as well as notes and draft letters. The sketchbooks are organized in chronological order, starting in the late 1970’s to the beginning of the 2000’s. Locations, notes, and dates have also been identified on the front of each sketchbook along with the sketchbook number. The sketchbooks provide a unique perspective of Siza’s use of drawing as part of his work process.
The earlier materials in the Álvaro Siza fonds were initially numbered by Siza’s office. Once these records were moved to the office archive they received new project numbers. Project files have been kept in the order in which they were received by the CCA. The project numbers and dates assigned by the office are included in the descriptions for each project.
CCA archivists arranged the material into two series:
AP178.S1: Architectural projects
Álvaro Joaquim de Melo Siza Vieira was born in Matosinhos (Porto), Portugal, on 25 June 1933. Over his long and distinguished career Siza’s work has been widely recognized. In 1988, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Consejo Superior de los Colegios de Arquitectos de España [Higher Council of Architects Associations in Spain]; the Gold Medal of the Alvar Aalto Foundation; the Prince of Wales Prize for Urban Design from Harvard University and the European Architecture Prize from the Mies van der Rohe Foundation. Siza was also awarded the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 1992; the Praemium Imperiale by the Japan Art Association in 1998; the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2009; and, in 2012, he was awarded the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.
Siza was originally interested in becoming a sculptor. However, his father, an engineer, did not encourage this as a career path. Although several architects have influenced Siza’s work, such as the work of Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, he often recounts that his interest for architecture was sparked at a very young age on a trip with his family to Barcelona, where he saw the work of Antoni Gaudí. From 1949 to 1955, Siza studied architecture at the former Escola Superior de Belas-Artes do Porto (ESBAP) [School of Fine Arts in Porto] under Portuguese architect Fernando Távora. Between 1955 and 1958, Siza collaborated on several projects with Távora while he began to develop projects of his own. In 1954, Siza completed his first new-built work, a project for four houses in Matosinhos and, in 1958, led a team of young architects in the development and realization of the Boa Nova Tea house and restaurant in Leça de Palmeira (1958-1963).
Siza became known abroad in the late 1970s and early 1980s for his role in the Serviço Ambulatório de Apoio Local (SAAL) for which he developed residential projects at Bouça (1973–1977) and São Victor (1974–1977), both in Porto. The projects were initiated shortly after the Carnation Revolution, on 25 April 1974, which saw the creation of SAAL to improve housing conditions in Portugal. Although locally his work on SAAL was not immediately well received, abroad there was much interest in his work on the projects and his use of participatory models. Siza’s work for SAAL was published in several journals which disseminated his work to a wide audience. Due to Siza’s experience with the SAAL program, he received the commission for the vast housing project at Quinta da Malagueira in Évora (1977-1998), which included 1200 houses over 27 hectares. Beginning in 1979, Siza was invited to submit design proposals for the Internationale Bauausstellung (IBA) [International Architectural Exhibition Berlin]. This invitation led to his first built project outside of Portugal, Block 121, Schlesisches Tor [Schlesisches Tor residential complex] (1980-1988), also known as Bonjour Tristesse, in Berlin. Siza would go on to work on similar housing projects in The Hague as part of an urban renewal program from 1983-1989. He became known for capturing the cultural and social context in his designs, being commonly referred to as “more Berliner than a Berliner.”
In the mid-1980s, Siza began to receive several commissions for cultural projects including the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art in Santiago de Compostela, which would become his first non-residential project built outside Portugal (1988-1993); the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto (1991-1999); the Portuguese Pavilion at Expo '98 in Lisbon (1995-1998); the Iberê Camargo Foundation in Porto Alegre (1998-2008); the Mimesis Museum in Paju Book City (2006-2010) and, more recently, the Nadir Afonso Museum in Chaves (2003-2015). Siza's work, however, spans a wide range of programmes and scales –from object and furniture design to urban planning and design. In addition to the above mentioned buildings and schemes and a series of influential houses, some of his most significant public projects include the Swimming Pools in Leça da Palmeira (1961-1966), the Borges & Irmão Bank in Vila do Conde (1978-1986), several buildings for the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto (1984-1993), the Teachers' Training College in Setúbal (1986-1994), the Church and Parish Centre in Marco de Canavezes (1990-1996), the Faculty of Journalism in Santiago de Compostela (1993-2000), the Ribera Serrallo Sports Complex in Cornellà de Llobregat (2000-2006) and the reconstruction of the Chiado area after a destructive fire in 1988.
Siza also held academic positions at the ESBAP from the mid to late 1960s, returning in 1976. In addition, he was also a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University; the University of Pennsylvania; Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá; and the École Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne.
Siza’s creative process is documented through his many sketches, as he constantly draws not only for his architectural work but also on a personal level. This process is mainly present in his sketchbooks, but also on other materials including envelopes, napkins, or receipts. Siza draws everything around him: landscapes, people, animals, even self-portraits of the architect drawing. To fully understand his methodology, his drawings must be seen as a tool, a way to analyse and find a solution to an architectural problem. Álvaro Siza has remarked that “Architects invent nothing. They work continuously with models which they transform in response to the problems they encounter”. This observation suggests the understanding of his work as the modification and rearrangement of existing material rather than the invention of forms.
 Alvaro Siza, "Interview," Plan Construction (PAN), lle session, May 1980.
The CCA received the Álvaro Siza fonds in four shipments. The first was received in August 2015, the second in January 2016, the third in February 2016, and the fourth in March 2019. Prior to the arrival of the fonds the materials were kept in Siza's office.
When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation:
Álvaro Siza fonds, Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal.
When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line
© Álvaro Siza
Portuguese, English, German, Dutch, Italian, French
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