Alvaro Siza Vieira

Alvaro Joaquim de Melo Siza Vieira (Matosinhos, 25 June 1933) is a contemporary Portuguese architect. His buildings are admired worldwide and he has won several international architectural awards, including the Pritzker Prize in 1992. Despite this worldwide fame, most of his work is located in and around Porto, where his office is based. In addition to the many projects in Portugal, his work can also be found in Spain, Germany, Argentina and Brazil. In the Netherlands Alvaro Siza is best known for two residential towers: Tower of Siza in Maastricht and New Orleans in Rotterdam. He was awarded the Dr. H.P. Berlage Prize 1993 for his many years of contribution to urban renewal in The Hague.


Alvaro Siza was born in Matosinhos, a fishing port near Porto. He wanted to be a sculptor, but enrolled in Architecture in order not to antagonise his father, mainly after visiting Barcelona in the late 1940s and seeing the works of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. His greatest influence was the Roman Coliseum.

He graduated in Architecture from the old Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Porto in 1966, now known as Faup, the new Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto. This renowned architect strings his buildings together as if they were musical poetry. He taught at the School of Fine Arts in Porto between 1966 and 1969 and has been an assistant professor of construction at the Faculty of Architecture in the same city since 1976. He has also been a visiting professor in Lausanne, Pennsylvania, Bogotá and Harvard. He is Director of the Schilderseijk Recovery Plan in The Hague and of the reconstruction of the Chiado in Lisbon.

In Bilbao he has built an L-shaped building for the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), the Paraninfo of the University, in the central area of Abandoibarra. In 2011 he was awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Seville1 and in 2014 by the University of Granada.

In 1961 he married the Portuguese artist Maria Antónia Siza.

Living a House

This text, focused on the construction of houses, written by Siza himself, speaks profoundly about the passage of time in space, a very real confrontation with the everyday situations developed within it and an important description of something that is key to the architect's design: inhabiting.

Siza also describes the responsibility and multi-functionality that the user must take on when facing the heroic task of acquiring a house; in the author's words: "... I consider it heroic to own, maintain and renovate a house" (1994, p 10). Likewise, at the beginning of the text, Àlvaro Siza describes the house as "... a complicated machine in which something breaks down every day..." (1994, p 9). (1994, p 9). This understanding comes from Siza's deep thinking and conception of the home and its daily inhabitation.

At the end of the text, Àlvaro Siza highlights - as a worthy reward - the harmonious atmosphere of the space, the result of an ignored but palpable work at the moment of the experience: "...we feel happy..." (Siza, 1994, p. 10). (Siza, 1994, p 10).


Siza's studio is located in the city of Porto, in a building he designed himself. From 1956 to the present day, many architects have been part of his team, some of the most renowned being Eduardo Souto de Moura, Bruno Marchand, Roberto Collovà, Fran Silvestre, Peter Brinkert, Rudolf Finsterwalder and Carles Muro.


Siza Vieira's work reflects the development of modernist architecture up to the 21st century; the architectural heritage of the European avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s is as much alive in it as its transformation by architecture since the 1960s. His buildings, committed to local issues, made him a leading representative of critical regionalism.

In his plans for private homes, social housing, housing complexes, public buildings, urban districts and redevelopment areas, he sensitively addresses the conditions of the landscape, urban environment and traditional building culture in order to translate them into a strict, modern formal language.

His buildings seem to fit into a balance of invisible forces that spring from the landscape. In this way, he achieves an attitude of the greatest possible respect for nature, and the artificiality of the intervention that every architectural project entails can thus attain justification. What is remarkable is the consistency of this integration, which is reflected in all scales and architectural themes.

Siza Vieira is famous for his sketches. In them, he captures complex situations and facilitates their understanding. They establish a dialectic between his creative intuition and the proof of architectural quality and thus become the architect's most important creative tool. Even in the first sketches for his projects, one finds many of the later qualities of the design.

Siza Vieira realised his projects mainly in post-revolutionary Portugal (i.e. after 1974), later also in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain and Germany.

Influence and Style

The architecture of Alvaro Siza has a great influence; he is regarded as one of the most important architects of the moment. His style is very difficult to describe. When he starts a new project, he starts with an extensive analysis of the context. His architecture results from this analysis. Siza has great respect for and interest in tradition, he tries to pick up traditions and develop/transform them. There is always something traditional and something innovative in his projects. His projects can be seen as an attempt to develop an existing situation.

Siza is often called a minimalist and an expressionist, but he calls himself a functionalist. His architecture is complex and difficult to describe. To understand it, it has to be visited and studied. A special feature of his work is the play with light; light often comes from unusual angles. He often makes use of reflection on walls, which are usually painted white.


  • 1988 - Gold Medal Colégio de Arquitectos, Madrid
  • 1988 - Mies van der Rohe Award
  • 1992 - Pritzker Prize
  • 1996 - Secil Award
  • 1998 - Alvar Aalto Medal
  • 1998 - The Prince of Wales Prize from Harvard University
  • 2000 - Secil Award
  • 2001 - Wolf Prize in Arts
  • 2005 - Grand Prix spécial d'urbanisme (France)
  • 2006 - Secil Award
  • 2008 - Royal Gold Medal for Architecture - Royal Institute of British Architects
  • 2009 - RIBA Royal Gold Medal

Selected Projects

1961-1966 Leça da Palmeira lido

The Piscinas de Marés pool complex, designed as a terraced landscape, is located a few hundred metres from the Boa Nova teahouse. The complex includes two pools, a café, washrooms, toilets and changing rooms, and technical facilities to control water quality.

The archaic-brutalistic concrete structure, seamlessly embedded in the rocky landscape like a sculpture, forms basins that make it possible to bathe in the water of the Atlantic and yet protected from the roaring surf typical here. At the same time, it is possible to observe how larger waves repeatedly splash into the pool and slightly stimulate the otherwise calm, warmed water, thus returning a poetic touch of nature to the artificially created bath.

Siza Vieira emphasises the unusual homogeneity of the building and the landscape through the materials: the exposed concrete consists of a very granular cement to which the crushed rock of the coast is added. This creates an astonishing effect of embedding the flat building in the jagged rocks.

1958-1963 Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, Leça da Palmeira

The view of the sea - incorporated into the rugged rocky coastline The Casa de Chá da Boa Nova (Tea House of Boa Nova) is Siza Vieira's first large and independent work. After Siza Vieira began the competition for the teahouse as Fernando Távora's collaborator, he is already drawing independently for the execution of the project.

The pavilion is located on the Atlantic coast north of the Douro estuary, not far from Siza Vieira's birthplace Matosinhos. Huge, round-washed stones alternate here with sandy beaches. Almost hidden, very white and crouched on a narrow headland, the flat building lies among the boulders and retreats under its large tiled roof. Enclosed on three sides by the sea, double glazing on the seaward side affords protection against storm, sea spray and the roar of the ocean. The terrace facing the sea is nestled in the flora of the stone coast.

The kitchen and storage rooms are on the land side. Inside, the building is divided into a dining room and a lounge-like tea room. From both rooms you have a beautiful view over the Atlantic. The wide band of windows can be lowered, then the room transforms into a balcony, a large open-air stage with dark-stained wood and brown leather armchairs.

The building was used by a restaurant until the end of the 2000s, but after it went out of business it quickly fell into a bad state: the inventory and the copper gutters were looted, the roof damaged. In 2011, however, it was registered as a national monument and by July 2014 it had been restored with Siza's assistance and converted into an upscale restaurant. In the process, even the lost furniture was restored to Siza's original designs.

1980-1984 Avelino Duarte House

Based on the design for the Avelino Duarte House in Ovar, Siza Vieira is often associated with Adolf Loos, who is considered a pioneer of modernism in architecture. The outwardly very simple plastered building creates atmospheric spaces inside through the skilful use of wood and natural stone.

There is no question that Siza Vieira studied Loos, but Siza Vieira goes beyond Loos' theories. Whereas Loos was still strictly surface-oriented in his use of materials and concerned himself with their layering, which was certainly not least due to the influences of Art Nouveau in Austria and southern Germany, which he turned against, Siza Vieira seems to be continuing his tradition, but in a much more spatial way of thinking.

1980-1984 Schlesisches Tor Residence - "Bonjour Tristesse

The Schlesisches Tor apartment building is located at Schlesische Straße No. 7 in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. It was built in 1982/83 and closes a war gap in the old building stock of the street. Siza Vieira's design envisaged a layout with four large flats per floor, which were to be accessible via four staircases, and various social facilities were also to be integrated into the ground floor. For cost reasons, however, the plan was modified. Today, there are two staircases, through which 46 flats can be reached.

The name "Bonjour Tristesse" was not given to the apartment building by the architect, but by an unknown sprayer who sprayed these words on the clearly visible gable of the corner building. This should be understood as a criticism of the grey façade and the monotonous window designs with always the same spacing within the varied streetscape. There is no recognisably set-off plinth zone or roof termination, as was common in the 90 years older surrounding architecture. The only variation is achieved by a slightly curved building form as well as a high parapet.

1988 Aveiro University Library

The University of Aveiro was founded directly after the Carnation Revolution in 1974 and is thus an expression of reforms in society and the educational system of a Portugal in transition. This is also expressed in terms of urban planning and architecture. The campus consists of strictly ordered row buildings of equal size, which are arranged around a central square, but without hierarchising them. A spatial concept that stands in stark contrast to the traditional Portuguese universities that have grown over centuries. Only a few buildings break out of this order, including the library. Its volume seems to resemble those of the other bodies, but it is rotated by 90 degrees and thus orients itself towards the expansive Ria landscape. Its exterior is defined by the contrast of red brick surfaces and light natural stone, a common material theme on the campus.

2003 Urban design Alcântara, Lisbon

Siza Vieira proposed to build three skyscrapers in the Alcântara district of Lisbon as part of an urban planning design he prepared. Close to the historic Ponte 25 de Abril bridge, the towers would flank the city entrance across the Tejo Bridge. However, the highly controversial proposal was rejected. Some sources accused Siza Vieira of polemics, claiming that the proposal was never meant seriously, but was intended as an impetus for discussion of the high-rise issue in the historic fabric of the city.

2005 Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina

In June 2005, the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina planned by Siza Vieira was opened.

Project List

  • 1958-1963 Teahouse, restaurant Boa Nova, Leça da Palmeira
  • 1958-1965 Swimming pool in Quinta da Conceiçao Park, Matosinhos
  • 1961-1966 Swimming pools on the seafront, Leça da Palmeira
  • 1969-1974 Borges & Irmão branch bank, Vila do Conde
  • 1975-1977 Bouça social housing development, Oporto
  • 1977-1997 Housing in the Quinta da Malagueira neighbourhood, Évora
  • 1980-1984 Residential building Kreuzberg bonjour tristesse, Berlin
  • 1983-1984 Housing development Punt en Komma, The Hague
  • 1985-1989 Housing and retail, The Hague
  • 1986-1994 Faculty of Architecture, University of Porto, Porto
  • 1988-1993 Centro Galego, Museum of Contemporary Art, Santiago de Compostela
  • 1988-1995 Central library for the University, Aveiro
  • 1990-2000 Housing and offices, A Fachada and Siza Tower, Maastricht-Céramique
  • 1990-1996 Church of St. Mary, Marco de Canaveses
  • 1991-1994 Factory building for Vitra Design, Weil am Rhein
  • 1991-1999 Museum Serralves, Porto
  • 1994-1998 Portuguese pavilion for Expo '98, Lisbon
  • 2004-2008 Public Library of Viana do Castelo
  • 2008-2010 Fundação Iberê Camargo, Porto Alegre
  • 2007-2009 New Orleans, Rotterdam


  • Seoane, Carlos; Rodriguez, Juan (2015). Siza by Siza. Porto: AMAG Editorial. ISBN 978-84-606-9702-2.
  • Betti, Raul; Ruffino, Greta (2012). Alvaro Siza, Viagem sem Programa. Red Publishing. ISBN 978-88-88492-22-3.
  • Carmo Simões, João; Figueira, J.; Tunhas, P. (2016). Alvaro Siza / Museu Nadir Afonso. monade. Lisboa. ISBN 978-989-99485-1-8.
  • Duarte, J.P. (2001). Customizing Mass Housing: a discursive grammar for Siza's houses at Malagueira", PhD Dissertation. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Figueira, Jorge (Hrsg.): Alvaro Siza. Modern Redux (Text: Alexandre Alves Costa, Jorge Figueira, Hans Ibelings, Guilherme Wisnik). Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2008, ISBN 978-3-7757-2298-8 (English/German) und ISBN 978-3-7757-2276-6 (English/Portuguese) – Projects 1998–2008
  • Frampton, Kenneth (2000). Alvaro Siza. Complete Works. London: Phaidon. ISBN 978-0714840048.
  • Jodidio, Philip (2013). Alvaro Siza: Complete Works 1952-2013. Taschen. ISBN 978-3836521710.
  • Rodrigues, Jacinto (1992). Alvaro Siza / obra e método. Livraria Civilização Editora. ISBN 972-26-1099-6.
  • Siza, Alvaro (1994). City Sketches. Birkhäuser. ISBN 3-7643-2820-7.
  • Testa, Peter (1996). Alvaro Siza. Birkhäuser. ISBN 3-7643-5598-0.


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This page was last changed on 2021-09-21.