When viewing the work of architect de Moura, one is surprised by his ingenious design. There is a unique inner tension in his work, beyond the traditional Portuguese architectural identity. How do he combine different materials and forms with his talent? How does he bring architecture into dialogue with nature?
In Portugal, there are currently two architects who have won the Pritzker Prize for Architecture: Álvaro Siza, an important representative of the country’s “Porto School of Architecture”, and Eduardo Souto de Moura, a student of Siza’s.Moura.
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Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura
Trained by Siza, de Moura is dedicated to exploring the path of Portuguese localization of modern architecture. In this process, he never follows trends, but chooses colors and materials according to the actual situation, so much so that it is difficult to define his style.
Less is more
De Moura’s architectural designs, mainly in Portugal, include apartments, office buildings, museums, sports facilities and subways, all of which reflect his “minimalist view”.
Because of this minimalist style, de Moura is often referred to as a “neo-Miesian”. The architect himself has admitted to being influenced by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German modernist architect, who said, “It is better to strive for perfection and lack creativity than to strive for style and do it badly.”
The implication was that deliberately highlighting style at the expense of the building itself would only make the design counterproductive. For him, the pursuit of perfection is more important than the pursuit of style, which coincides with Mies van der Rohe’s philosophy of “less is more.
For the design of the Paola Rego Historical Museum, de Moura chose the basic elements of rectangular and conical forms as the main structure of the building. Although the forms are simple, by using contrast and juxtaposition of different forms, these seemingly ordinary forms can be shaped into a rich and interesting architectural space.
In particular, the two red cones standing along the central axis of the museum entrance make the museum stand out against the green lawn.
One can see that de Moura has a unique vision of minimalism. He wished to strip away the pretensions and express the simplicity of the building through the purity of form. This characteristic is also reflected in many of the architect’s residential designs.
In these designs, despite the different topography of the houses, de Moura was able to fully integrate the architecture into the environment. This is due to his rejection of elaborate decoration.
The purity of the geometric volumes is emphasized by the solid color of the walls, the transparent glass windows and the delicate fence posts. It is the minimalist appearance of the buildings that allows the naturalness of the site to be preserved to the greatest extent and the abruptness of the buildings themselves to be dissolved.
Dialogue with the Environment
Although he is called a “Neo-Miesian”, de Moura does not always follow the footsteps of his predecessors, but insists on his own independent thinking. The radical treatment of the site reflects his philosophy that architecture should be in dialogue with the environment.
The Municipal Stadium of Braga, which former U.S. President Barack Obama once described as “perhaps de Moura’s most famous work,” is one such building that “grew” out of its environment.
The building site is located in an abandoned local quarry. In order to continue the artificial and natural character of the quarry, de Moura made a bold transformation of the site.
Through precise blasting, he blew out nearly 1.5 million cubic meters of granite to make room for the construction of the arena. The side of the stadium leaning against the mountain formed a 100-foot high granite façade, with the big screen standing on top of the rock wall.
De Moura believes that such a work, created from nature and integrated with nature, is good architecture. With the dramatic rock face of the quarry at one end and the view of the city of Braga at the other, the design allows the spectators to enjoy the magnificent natural scenery while watching the game.
In addition to the natural environment, the human environment is another important factor that influences the architecture. De Moura is particularly interested in the cultural heritage of the building and is committed to bringing the traditional Portuguese culture to life in the new building. The renovation of the two monasteries is a reflection of his dedication to the continuation of the architectural heritage.
Both the Convento Das Bernardas and the Santa Maria do Bouro Convent have been severely damaged by the passage of time. However, after the architects’ renovation, the convent is no longer just a historical relic, but a modern hotel that has been revitalized.
The architects used traditional stone and white plaster on the facade to give the space a historical continuity, thus preserving to a large extent the original appearance of the building and its ethnic character.
At the same time, the internal facilities have been updated. With the distinctive features of traditional Portuguese architecture and the practical functions of a modern hotel, both monasteries present a unique appeal to the world.
Turning Imperfection into Perfection
De Moura once said: “Reality is imperfect, architecture needs to make it perfect ……” The natural environment exists naturally in the world, and the architecture in nature is a man-made construction, both of which together form the human living space. To create more beauty to compensate for the defects of reality through the special existence of architecture is the strong motivation for architects to keep improving.
In order for architecture to compensate for the defects of reality, it is necessary to consider the function and safety of the building. The architects designed two different façades for the Berg office building: the north and south sides consist of large glass windows and steel sections (a steel bar with a certain cross-sectional shape and size), while the east and west sides are protected from the elements by granite.
“The two linked buildings, one vertical and one lying flat, have completely different volumes, yet the architects have created a dialogue between the two, between building and building, between building and site.” The Pritzker Architecture Prize jury hit the nail on the head with its assessment of the Berg Office Building.
For de Moura, architecture is a real system that addresses a particular problem. Architectural design must both resolve the conflict between architecture and reality and respond to real conditions and ultimately meet the needs of the user. Therefore, he never sticks to the use of specific materials and techniques.
From the perspective of materials, he likes to make direct contact between materials with vastly different characteristics to make places recognizable. At the same time, the intersection relationship between different components will be clearly shown in the building local.
As for the choice of technology, he does not approve of the practice of putting various labels on the technology itself. Regardless of traditional or modern technology, the most important thing is to make the building “good”.
How should “good” architecture be defined? From the architect’s design, one can get a glimpse. A “good” building is one that allows the building to grow and breathe freely. Here, the structure extends along the terrain, the transparent glass and green vegetation reflect each other, and the sunlight shines into the pool along the white concrete walls. ……
Goethe once said, “Architecture is frozen music.” In de Moura’s works, strength and modesty, roughness and meticulousness form different notes, playing a symphony full of life. But this piece does not stop at the level of the senses, but implies a serious reflection with which only a careful observer can communicate deeply.