One of the reasons why I decided to stay in Lisbon was and still is Portuguese contemporary architecture. The proximity of the ocean, the sunlight reflecting off the water and on limestone-paved streets and then flooding every corner of every room – those were the other reasons. I’ve lived in Portugal for 11 years, I’ve started my own studio, I’ve joined the Portuguese chamber of architects and I’ve travelled from one end of the country to the other several times. My friends from university would visit me every summer, accompanied by my contemporary architecture professor Karel Doležel and a group of former students. Armed with a list of new buildings we needed to see and old buildings we needed to see again, and with a bottle of good Port wine, our friendly company would travel across the country to see local architecture.
Why exactly is Portuguese architecture so celebrated and acclaimed? Could it just be a natural outcome of historical context? Does the sea have something to do with it? When accepting the Pritzker Prize in 2011, Eduardo Souto de Moura said: “During dictatorship, the Modern movement couldn’t develop properly in Portugal. And Post-Modernism was not the answer to our problems. What we needed was a clear, simple and pragmatic language to rebuild our country and culture.”
In his book Imaginar a Evidência (1998), Álvaro Siza writes: “Architects manipulate memory, sometimes deliberately, but surely more often unknowingly. We incorporate knowledge, information, study and architectural tendencies, until they are lost within our individual unconsciousness.” We all grow this unconscious layer inside by reading, studying references, thinking and travelling. Let me invite you all on a road trip, then, with ERA21 magazine. Let’s visit new projects and contemplate contemporary Portuguese architecture together.
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