Cultour

Guided visits by architects to architectural works

Portuguese architecture

PORTUGUESE ARCHITECTURE Portugal spent many years, for a variety of historical, geographical and cultural reasons, at a distance from European architecture. This marginalised state was happily a determining factor in the development of distinguishing features, which are today internationally recognised as Portuguese architecture. O Estado Novo (the totalitarian regime, inspired by fascism, within which Portugal existed for almost 50 years - 1928-1974) brought to an end the few modernist experiments which were produced in the first half of the 20th century.

A classical and monumental language was instituted in order to dignify the political power. However, in the 1950s, the ever-present will to find the essence of Portuguese Architecture, led Keil do Amaral, along with the then young architect from Oporto, Fernando Távora, to propose the task of undertaking the Inquérito à Arquitectura Popular Portuguesa (Inquiry into Portuguese Popular Architecture). The publication of the inquiry, undertaken in 1961, coincided with protest to the Movimento Moderno which was taking place at CIAM (Congresso International de Arquitectura Moderna).

This document and the reflection it generates, is fundamentally important not only for Fernando Távora and the architects of his generation but also for future generations. It is within this context that amongst the architects born in the 1930s arose the inevitable figure, Álvaro Siza Viera. With his first works, the houses of Matosinhos, the casa de Chá da Boa Nova, the Quinta da Conceição (in collaboration with his teacher at the Escola do Porto, Fernando Távora) and the swimming pools of Leça, the premisses of a promising journey were registered. In this journey the serene integration of the inevitably new in contemporary architectural creation settles in a place marked by tradition and by geography, reconciling vanguard and vernacular. "Where language is only a whisper" (Siza 1991).

With the revolution on the 25 April 1974, the totalitarian regime ended. Important changes occurred, not only politically but also economically, socially and culturally. With this transformation process two associated factors arise: a growing social interest and a progressive institutional recognition of the role of architecture. These provided important work opportunities to new generations of architects. There followed in the 80s and 90s a construction boom, generally of poor architectural quality. However, there are some good examples (usually a result of public initiative) in which we see high quality architecture. It was at this time that some architects of more recent generations had the opportunity to construct emblematic buildings, unquestionably affirming themselves on the national and international architectural scene (Eduardo Souto Moura, Gonçalo Byrne, João Luís Carrilho da Graça…) In recent years, the resurgence of urban discipline has come to be focussed once again on the architectural work in an urban context, creating greater critical consciousness, not only in the professional area but also in local administration and the population in general.

Consequently, in recent years, a new understanding of the concept of urban quality has arisen, not only in terms of isolated architectural objects, but realise in interventions in the public space, urban recuperation operations, both in historic centres and run-down peripheries. These interventions constitute interesting experiences, as much from a strictly disciplinary point of view as in urban political process. Experiments such as the Quinta da Malagueira in Évora, the Reconstruction of the Chiado, Expo '98, the urban rehabilitation of the Historic Centre of Guimarães, or the interventions brought about through the Polis Programme are all examples of this.

Portuguese Architecture is currently viewed with growing interest by Europe and the World. This is witnessed by the many articles and books currently being published on Portuguese architecture in general and about its most acclaimed representatives. Fernando Távora, Álvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto Moura.