COMPETING FOR ORNAMENT
AS INSIGHT ON ÁLVARO SIZA VIEIRA AND EDUARDO
SOUTO DE MOURA ARCHITECTURES
This paper will focus the study of ornament on relevant competitions of the two
Portuguese Pritzker winner architects Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de
Moura and will try to propose a reading on its use and description.
Ornament has radically changed on the course of the last centuries and is now
understood as a new question of meaning and communication. It is now embed in the
very condition of architecture and not imposed on architecture. We cannot longer find
ornament as a detachable part of the building or autonomously but in the meaning the
building intends to deliver as a whole.
Competitions have gained importance as procurement and as on-going research for
architects. As ornament communicates and gives meaning and it is a relevant tool for
the rhetoric put into use at competitions. Transmitting, decoding and understanding
the very nature of the project is essential to winning a competition.
Ornament is seen by the authors as not external or dissociated from architecture but as a conscientious and intentional mental
and physical relation with architecture and endogenous to it.
Álvaro Siza Vieira in 1992 and nineteen years after Eduardo Souto de Moura have been
distinguished by their work. There is a common ground of understandings of shared
histories and complicities between them. Although quite different in their work they
have the same fundamental ethical position of professional practice and share the same
genetic code so often attributed to Portuguese architects of context, social responsibility
and fierce attention to detail. It is proposed that ornament is part of their work, despite
the current association with a clean, aseptic and white South European architecture.
Aesthetics, ornament, architectural competitions, Siza Vieira, Souto de Moura, Portugal
Architectural competitions are currently one of the most significant procurement
methods in many countries around the world. As a post-World War II phenomenon
they have been part of the new professional fundamental practice experience for most
larger multinational architectural practices and to well-known architects. Several
positive aspects can be enumerated: improvement of office morale; new ways of
thinking can be developed and tested; it is a way to gain experience and notability; it
provides learning and researching abilities beyond current themes and curricula; it is
an opportunity to expand on building types; experience new collaborative efforts; and
last, but not least, to secure (and assure) new work.
Competition entries are usually being seen at two different levels: (1) a level of formal
competence - in arranging spaces in terms of its functionality in space organization -
and (2) a second level of superficial communication -
surface could constitute, by itself, a single, scaled work of ornament within a site or a
Ornamentation is a primary way for architects to communicate values, ideologies and
aesthetic principles. In late 19th (Sullivan, 1892) and early 20th (Loos, 1908) century
ornament was ethically questionable and function surpassed the simplest need for
communication. Quantity rather than quality buildings were the main focus of the rise
of urbanism and cities. When quantity was settled the question of quality and status
was raised and ornament was seen as a new layer of meaningful experience one would
get from the building based on the new environmental readings that had become
possible. Ornament is a response to the aesthetic crises of the integration of industry
and art (Spelman, 1997) and, as traditional architectural representation; ornament is a
direct phenomenon of metropolitan culture (Colomina, 1992).
It is the communication provided by the ornament which enables a conscious brand of
architecture (Lo Ricco and Micheli, 2003). Both the client and the architect want to reach
forms, analogies or understandings that have an influence on the readings but also their
positions, repetitions, scales, algorithms and their relations to the whole. Even the boom
of new ecological buildings now assumes integrated nature as a new ornament.
Cartoon by Klaus Souto de Moura greets Siza Vieira near the Boa Nova Tea House, both Pritzker nominees!
Therefore, ornament in competitions is the primordial rhetoric (Tostrup, 1996) aspect to
focus upon, it communicates to others the idea of integration, beauty (or ugliness) and
provides clues to the branding (marketing) power of the idea (Moraes de Sá, 2005).
This is not a new trend. Past competitions have been able to provide new objects of
highly competent design (Haan, Haagsma, Sharp and Frampton, 1988; Lipstadt, 2006,
1989; Nasar, 2006) and aesthetics. Architects compete in design by concentrating in the
communication and representation at the skin of the object. Yet, what is currently
becoming fashionable in competitions is the way skin is becoming itself an ornament
2. Objectives and Methods
This investigation will propose relations between architecture and ornament within a
frame of individual research which is only possible in the unique time and place of a
competition process. Although these finding may be unique to each architect they are
also applicable, to some extent, to other architects as Pritzker Prizes are so often the
fundamental resource to researching and teaching architecture and give support to its
This research will follow a mix approach. The findings will be based on a literature
review of relevant architecture studies from competitions and from ornament, and
analyses of competition documents.
Examples shall be taken from several competitions submitted by Álvaro Siza Vieira and
Eduardo Souto Moura (EDS) such as: from Álvaro Cultural Centre La
Defensa - Bibliothèque of France -90), the
Helsinki Museum (1992-93 with EDS), and the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion (2007 with
Salzburg Hotel - The Bank
Burgo Tower -95 Phase 1; 2003-04 Phase 2; 2007 Construction).
Additional examples shall be taken from other work from both architects
3. On ornament
The immediate definition of Ornament may be fou a
thing used or serving to make something look more attractive but usually having no practical
purpose ornamentum means "apparatus, equipment, trappings;
embellishment, decoration, trinket" and from ornare or ornate means "equip, fit out,
adorn". The contemporary apparent lack of purpose for ornament has dictated its
historic use and disuse.
The most important treaties of architecture treat ornament as a vital part of the beauty
of architecture and of its pleasure to the senses. Vitruvius (80BC-15BC) deemed
fundamental three qualities to architecture firmitas, utilitas and venustas
firmness, usefulness and delight, or technology, function and form. To Vitruvius
ornament was associated with the figurative equipment and their proportions and
distribution upon elements of Greek origin. to be a
kind of an auxiliary brightness and improvement [complement] to beauty somewhat
added or fastened on, rather than proper and innate Alberti (1404-1472) formulated his
reasoned harmony beauty is a form of sympathy and consonance of
the parts within a body, according to a definite number, outline, and position, as dictated by
concinnitas, the absolute and fundamental rule in Nature. This is the main object of the art of
building, and the source of her dignity, charm, authority and worth . For
Palladio (1508-1580) ornament and beauty are almost synonymous and part of its lexic
and grammar of architectonic elements, such is the case of the use of the column as
structural element and ornamentation.
During the 19th Century eclecticism integrated fundamental element to
evoke, characterise and allude to a specific historic period, thus presenting a symbolic character
(Moraes de Sá, 2005). Eclecticism mimicked and mixed elements from different epochs,
not constrained to the truth of the initial ornament, but fantasizing and recreating it.
Ornament was a choice that was strongly linked to the birth and development of the
high bourgeoisie, of industrialization and capitalism. With the advent of the industrial
machinery ornament was produced in series and easily acquired by catalogue.
By 1982 Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) ornament in architecture
1892) and questions the use of ornament as prime aesthetic quality and its necessity,
(...) ornament is mentally a luxury, not a necessity, for we shall have discerned the
limitations as well as the great value of unadorned masses.” Sullivan was not entirely against
ornament, and later on decorated structures he defends its wholeness and refrains from
“destroying its individuality(Sullivan, 1892) analytical study(Sullivan, 1892).
Ornament is in this view an undissociated part of the whole.
It is the pervading law of all things organic and
inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things
superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is
recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law
John Ruskin (1819 1900), who was a leading humanist of Victorian period, quoted by
Nikolaus Pevsner, the principal part of
architecture, considered as a subject of fine art, coming from an
was later condemned by most
architects, theoreticians and historians of the 20th Century.
By the end of the 19th Century there was clearly a radical change in the image buildings
would follow. Pre-modern movements in early 20th, including art-nouveau, art-decor
and arts and crafts were in fact only temporary transitional answers towards modern
times and needs.
Modern times need a modern society, with a new aesthetic dimension and education,
with the primacy of reason. Modernism cuts with ornament and assumed a radical
opposition towards its use. The key word was anti-ornamentalism. By funding itself in
some basic principles: Zeitgeist (the spirit of the times), functionality, structural truth
There was a tendency with modernism that perdured with the critic of modernity, even
with 70s post-modern follies, to consider ornament as obsolete or unnecessary. This
tendency was later related with the term devised by David Stove in the Plato Cult
(Stove, 2012) - Horror Victorianorum - an irrational distaste for, or
condemnation of, Victorian culture, art and design. (…) essentially a matter of taste, but one so
powerful and irrational that it possessed the intensity of religious faith. As a result it produced a
revulsion – rather than a reasoned scepticism (…) the term was taken up by the design historian
Shelagh Wilson (Wilson, 1999) to refer to modernist distaste for Victorian architecture and
Only with a new vanguard in aesthetics linked to the new art movements such as
cubism, neoplasticism, constructivism and abstracts
written and built, to a new conception of ornament.
The field of architecture is enlarged in order to cope with all liveable environments,
new contemporary man.
While growing distance from the Beaux Arts aesthetics, architects introduce new
concepts and raise new issues such as method, complexity and process (systems).
Along the century a spin of new movements become dependable of being international
or even global
Post modernism make, through parody and irony, a solid critic to modern architecture.
History and popular (vernacular) culture are rehabilitated as part of an enriched
architectonic concept, with a new aesthetic in opposition to the austerity of modernism.
4. On the modern use of ornament
Adolf Loos (19870- ornament
and Crimecentury exploring the negative idea
of ornament philosophical position in modern culture. As Reyner Banham says in 1957:
Everyone knows that modern architecture in undecorated. This concept is the layman’s
recognition check: flat roof, big windows, no decoration. It is also of the great seminal half-truths
that have now become rules of design morality
If, as stated, in late 19th (Sullivan, 1892) and early 20th (Loos, 1908) century, ornament
was ethically questionable and function surpassed the simplest need for
communication, thus quantity rather than quality buildings were the main focus of the
rise of urbanism and cities. Then when quantity was settled the question of quality and
status was raised and ornament was seen as a new layer of meaningful experience one
would get from the building based on the new environmental readings that had become
Ornament becomes a response to the aesthetic crises of the integration of industry and
art and architecture incorporates in its surface aspects of cultural significance,
its social structure monumentality
architectural representation; ornament is therefore a direct phenomenon of
Architecture is not simply a
platform that accommodates the viewing subject. It is a viewing mechanism that produces the
subject. It precedes and frames its occupantColomina, 1992)
Modern ornament becomes part of the experience of the object, inherent to the
characteristics of the object and it is part of its generation of forms and its materials.
When reduced to the sole communication of t
fashion, adoration or oblivion. Through the ages craftsman exhorted the artistic
possibilities of materials, and ornament was negotiated, not opposed, to the nature of
ground zeronament took place when repetitive ornament was
replaced by the research for the possibilities of minimal aseptic uniqueness in shapes
and materials. The growing distaste for ornament made it only inherent to the shape
and to the material. From the critic o
most natural ornament which is the natural skin (perfection) or as the beauty of the
The 2002/03 CCA Exhibition
Herzog & de Meuron: archaeology of the mind
as that surpass the mimesis and artistic production. With
-localized as mediator between space and
reveal a new look on ornament and
view to the contemporary use of ornament as endogenous to the building. One century
Ornament and Crime-emerges as a new paradigm.
The killing of the decorative arts as well as the enlarging body of architectural sciences
gave way to a moral classification of ornament. When dealing about positive ornament
we assume to be seeing: creation, experimentation and life. In opposition, when
referencing negative ornamentation we classify it as mere decoration, copy, pollution or
Furthermore ornament is always relative. That is: is always in relation to something
bigger and, accordingly, is always dependent on the notion of scale.
As Amir Ameri (2005) proposes in addition one could say that facing the common
definition of ornamentation as addition, as an extra, or as something auxiliary, it may
lead to the idea that every architectural element could be an ornamental element
depending on the circumstances of its placement. Every architectural element could be
an ornamental element as long as it was applied to a building and could appear to de
detachable from it. What happens if it cannot be detached? Does it loose the purpose of
ornament? What if it is indeed some part of something in place and yet out of place?
Whether ornament can be limited in space or not, it is to an extent involuntary, because
ornament, in a sense, has no specific place.
(…) ornament is not so much an element, but an element in reference to another
element. Ornament is never by itself. The ornament must always be measured against another
element. (…) It does not designate so much a thing, as a specific relationship between two things.
(… ) as Le Corbusier put it, that constitutes and separates architecture from mere building is the
(CCA) and Herzog & de Meuron, 2005.
beautiful, i.e., what can accept neither addition nor subtraction without loss, the question of the
place and role of ornamentation, which is neither simply attached nor simply detached, presents
considerable difficulty. If allowed as addition, it inevitably challenges the self-sufficiency of the
beautiful and as such architecture itself. If disjoined and separated, ornament, nevertheless, raises
questions about its presence and contribution. (…) ornament, [which] is not even a thing, but a
role that can be assumed by virtually anything.
The tolerance to the void of ornament in architecture is tested repeatedly everywhere,
either by rationalists or minimalists, by favouring multiple aesthetic and aseptic radical
experiences, reserved once ago only to few iconic mystic places.
We propose that ornament must not be restricted to the applied ornament, but rather
propose its existence on complex spatial concepts in architecture driven by tree-
dimensional structure that fulfil functional use. It is the surface flow that nourishes the
essence of what support it. It is possible that the modern movement induced the
evolution of the notion of ornament towards an ornamental character of the object.
The determination of what is or what is not the place of ornament follows,
not accidentally, the application of one and the same test determining what is or is not true
ornament: the presence vs. the absence of “meaning” or “definite thought.” Where meaning can
be perceived that is the place for ornament. Where ornament’s meaning is killed or defiled, where
ornament becomes, by definition, what it is not - meaningless and as such lifeless and valueless -
that is not.” (Ameri, 2005)
5. On competitions
Competition main objective is to find the best result among those presented. It concerns
architectural quality, not only for the client, but for the user and for society at large,
within the limits proposed for all competitors. A simultaneous number of architects,
responding to preconditions and a set of requirements set forth, make proposals or
origin of the word “compete” means to strive or to seek together or “com currer”, that is: to run
Architectural Competitions have been of great importance to the
architectural quality and development in regional as well as international respect. (…) The most
important innovative force of the architectural trade is the architectural competition
unquestionable faith in [their - competitions]
benefits break with traditional
architectural history’s affirmation of a historical association of competitions with great style-
forming moments of innovationLipstadt, 2010, affirms an individual as a creator
(Lipstadt, 2010, p.49). In fact she links authorship directly to the athe
contemporary competition that was ‘lived as carnival’ created an ‘opportunity of making
architecture for its own sake’. Its loan of professional legitimacy to a design which, in the end,
may turn out to be no more than occasion for one’s edification, ‘affirm[ed] the individual and the
creator’ and make possible a ‘space for architecture-as-art’ in the ‘city of practice Lipstadt,
The author is the agent of creation with a definite purpose and interest in competitions.
It is the author-architect who undergoes a process of research and experimentation in
order to produce innovative solutions. It is within the competition process that the
author reaffirms himself in the architecture panorama firmly believing his proposal
could and would fit the purpose of the competition. With firm commitment and
expectation that the judgement of the jurors would appreciate and understand it (over
all others). The jury, the programme, the user, the exhibition and publication are all
collectively part of this process of (re)inforcing authorship.
So it is understanding that competitors take ornament as the primordial rhetoric aspect
to focus upon (Tostrup, 1996), it communicates to others the idea of integration, beauty
(or ugliness) and provides clues to the branding (marketing) power of the idea (Moraes
de Sá, 2005; Lo Ricco and Micheli, 2003).
This is not, by all means, a new trend. Past competitions have been able to provide new
objects of highly competent design (Haan et al., 1988; Lipstadt, 2006, 1989; Nasar, 2006)
and elaborate innovative aesthetics. Architects compete in design by concentrating in
the communication and representation at the skin of the object.
As ornament in its former pre-modern status in the building undergoes a morphing
process towards the building form or shape and its materials, the exterior layer the
skin is the final truth perception of ornament. Therefore what is currently becoming
fashionable in competitions is the way skin is becoming itself an ornament (Ursprung,
Centre rchitecture and Herzog & de Meuron, 2005).
In order to produce good results, competitors need to persuade, and they take into
consideration, as Helene Tostrup (1996) identifies, two types of complementary
rhetoric: (1) one visual and (2) also verbal arguments. The first level deals with the
representation strategies used to communicate, and the second with the arguments and
narrative used to express the qualities of the competition entry.
Architects’ greatest impact therefore comes
during the early stages of the design process, when they must come up with one or a few ideas,
powerful enough to encompass the different aspects. These ideas are known to architects by many
names, (…), but most often are called the 'parti' or 'concept' [Lawson, 1994]. Such concept does
not necessarily require the addition of an extra ingredient. In fact, every component already
present in the design situation, e.g. a special feature of the site or a curious trait of the client, may
qualify for this focal role. Moreover, underlying ideas are rarely found in the singular
reveal a capacity for reflection on their intuitive knowing in the midst of action
and [they] sometimes use this capacity to cope with the unique, uncertain, and conflicted
situations of practicewith an idea of form, which he
[the architect] explores through a series of moves (drawings, models, etc.), considering their
consequences and implications, while attempting further moves in a constant dialogue between
visual perception and verbal, conceptual affirmation
Either the visual form or the verbal language is, according to Tostrup, embed with an
aesthetic value, intellectually conceived and bounded by a background of experiences
and concepts in a constant interaction between architecture art and profession and
society. This duality between profession and society, were the architect is imposed with
the responsibility of acting in a common ground, creates the same instability and
tensions derived from art and its relation with society. Yet, not as art, an ethical
commitment of the architect is expected as architecture is often more imposing than
At a specific time and place all competitions question this relation and, sometimes in
provocative terms and other is more complacent terms, an aesthetical proposal is
submitted and appreciated.
(…) Competitions are battlegrounds of opposing ambitions and antagonistic solutions, giant
architecture classrooms with invisible boundaries and, often, open enrolments. They provide the
forum for struggles for one’s personal best, team efforts forged in camaraderie, debilitating taxes
on body and pocket, and, for the happy few, joyous public triumph. Competitions encourage those
who only observe, including the public, to applause or admonish architects as if designers were
contending in a public tournament
It is the communication provided by the ornament which enables a conscious brand of
architecture (Lo Ricco and Micheli, 2003). Both the client and the architect want to reach
the users (juries | viewers | users) through values and ideologies.
5. On Siza and Souto de Moura’s use of ornament
Both Siza and Souto address competitions as optimum research labs (Guilherme and
Rocha, 2012) and reflect upon the ornament within their own competitions proposals.
The question of ornament is present at other work besides competitions, yet, it is
undeniable that within a competition it is the ornament (or the lack of it) that produces
a specific level of visual rhetoric, verbal narrative and contributes to a potential image
of the final project.
Most of my works were never published; some of the things I did were
only carried out in part, others were profoundly changed or destroyed. That's only to be expected.
An architectonic proposition whose aim is to go deep (…) a proposition that intends to be more
than a passive materialisation, refuses to reduce that same reality, analysing each of its aspects,
one by one; that proposition can't find support in a fixed image, can't follow a linear evolution.
(…) Each design must catch, with the utmost rigour, a precise moment of the flittering image, in
all its shades, and the better you can recognize that flittering quality of reality, the clearer your
design will be. (…) That may be the reason why only marginal works (a quiet dwelling, a holiday
house miles away) have been kept as they were originally designed. But something remains.
Pieces are kept here and there, inside ourselves, perhaps fathered by someone, leaving marks on
space and people, melting into a process of total transformation
The confrontation between the tectonic and the ornament are always at stake, making
simple and evident the complex nature of the building and its construction. The skin
either more voluptuous in the case of Siza Vieira, or analytical-rational in the case of
Souto de Moura - mix ornament with construction in a coherent communication effort
with the client, the user and the city.
Taking into consideration some competitions and other work from Álvaro Siza and
Souto de Moura we will sustain an architectural grammar that deeply links society,
space and nature with ornamental communication, that deeply influence their
international relevance and success. Kenneth Frampton Speaks of a force of creative
nucleus of great civilizations and great cultures(1983, p.148) that fosters and prevails over
the phenomenon of universalization. The international emergence of these architects
affirms architecture as something mental with no regional limits of fixed borders, thus
addressing a centreless and unperipheral architecture. Frampton further addresses this
cross fertilization and reinterpretation
and to the Italian Neo-rationalist.
Their on-going daily research makes them fairly competent in organizing functions and
programmes, thus giving them a fair chance of complying with the competition formal
requirements. The difference between them and others is, among others things, a
question of addressing the context and a metamorphic ability to change and qualify the
surrounding areas and thus the city. To some degree one has to look at some of the
buildings at a larger scale in order to see how buildings relate to the city and
contributes to ornament it.
Remaining true to their heritage, but also to the Oporto school paradigm, Siza first
embark in an analysis of the site which provides the context clues to anchor and relate
collaborator of Siza, and later on his own, continues this tradition, but with
monumentality characterized by the strong formal conception almost gestural and a
remarkable attention to constructive detail.
work using an architectural grammar that presume the existence of ornament in their
work and demystify the idea of a white (clean or sterilized) Portuguese architecture.
The first works of Siza that gained international interest (Boa Nova Tea House (1958-63)
and Ocean Swimming Pool (1961-66) at Leça da Palmeira) are strong affirmations of the
territory and value of the site. The site is primordial for inspirations. Frampton speaks
buildings are delicately layered and inland their sites. His approach is patently tactile
and materialist, rather than visual and graphic The contrast
between the rocks and the sea shore and the softness of materials used at both buildings
make a clear statement and are exuberant against nature. The rigour of the action of
man articulates with the uncertain forms of nature, reflecting upon the relation between
the artificial and the natural world. It is within this plastic contrast one may find the
some initial clues for ornament. Not within the building itself, but nature as ornament
for the building or vice-versa.
Siza, Boa Nova Tea House
Siza, Ocean Swimming Pool
At the Casino and Winkler Restaurant Extension (Salzburg, Austria, first prize, 1986)
Siza uses the steep cliff overlooking the city for the linear structure and vertical tower
that contains the elevator shaft and connects the city below to the casino above. This
remarkable structure would provide a new relation between the historic buildings
taking part of the site particular geologic characteristics.
The Burgo tower (1991-95 Phase 1; 2003-04 Phase 2; 2007 Construction) is the first large
I always say that I moved from one floor
to twenty. I never built three or four floor buildings, I moved from one to twenty (Rangel,
Martins, Sá and Faria, 2009b, p.58) Souto de Moura acknowledges the Miesian
influence, speaking of his Burgo Tower and answering an Italian journalist and critic,
it’s better not to be original, but good, rather than wanting to be very
original and bad(Key projects by Eduardo Souto de Moura, 2011)
SM, Burgo Building, Oporto, Portugal. Two huge modules simple geometric shape, with traces of straight lines,
break the architectural landscape and home the largest office building in the city (© Luís Ferreira Alves)
Burgo is an authentic building
because it is a mirror of the lie it really is (…) it is not a stack or it would not have columns
(Rangel et al., 2009b, p.60) There is a clear intention of masking the number of stories
that is materialized as construction details are settled. One cannot tell at a distance the
number of stories; the height of the building loses sense and turns into an abstraction.
Within buildings of urban relevance, such as this one, Souto de Moura researches the
visible qualities of architecture through the use of the façade as mediation between
exterior and interior: transparency and reflection. Thus he reflects upon the novelty of
visual elements, as centuries before, the Baroque architects also did.
6.2 Pattern or Urban Fabric
Most of initial competitions from Siza are urban plan renewals, like Campo di Marte
(Guidecca, Venice, Italy, 1st Prize, 1983), the Kulturforum (Berlin, finalist, 1983) or the
Centro Cultural de la Defensa (Madrid, Spain, 1st Prize, 1988-90), following the Bouça
Social Housing (Oporto, 1973-77), the São Victor District Rehabilitation (Oporto, 1974-
77) and the Quinta da Malagueira Residential District at Évora (1977-).
Siza, Campo di Marte (Guidecca, Venice, Italy, 1st Prize, 1983)
The areas involved in these renovations are sometimes quite large and architecture is
not defined at a level of detail but at a level of urban intentions. In urban scale one
could propose that ornament, by being a relation between objects, and despite of scale,
could be seen at those small urban moments of difference, of emptiness and of stay. Cut
corners, new alignments, differences of scale, new street patterns, harmony, rhythm,
unity and hierarchy, proportion, scale, displacement, contrast or change can provide
some kind of ornament to the city.
Ornament and decoration, when used to heal the city has three interrelated functions. They are:
to go beyond the decoration of individual buildings and to enrich the decorative themes of a
locality; to enhance the physical, social and spiritual qualities of location, that is, to strengthen
the genius loci, and thirdly to develop the ‘legibility’ and ‘imageability’ of the city.” (Moughtin,
The judgement of urban competitions, despite the competence of the architect in
dealing with the urban structure, mobility, function or environment control, is
particularly focused to appreciate the aesthetic experience of city ornament,
supplementing with thought and judgement the undoubted sensuous and immediate
pleasure of visual complexity.
One could easily describe Álvaro Siza as organic, plastic and voluptuous while Souto de
moura could be described as more rational. The former architect is quite commonly
referenced as being a critical regionalist (in close proximity to Alvar Aalto) and the
latter as a modern abstractionist or neo-plasticist (strongly admiring Mies Van der
Nonetheless none of these reductionist conditions really reflect their work in a
globalized world where they face international competitions with so many different
architects, from so many different countries. In those territories of confrontation they
apply all their strong competences and rigour to differentiate from others.
With the memorial to the Victims of the Third Reich at Prinz Albrecht Palais (Berlin,
competition, 1983) Siza proposes a very formal project a doric column clad in white
marble in the earthwork that constitutes the memorial that relates the centre of the
Greek empire to the once centre of the Third Reich. A specific ornament detail used
centuries after time with same iconography of power.
Siza, Memorial to the Victims of the Third Reich at Prinz Albrecht Palais (Berlin, competition,
ery attractive, either because of its artistic beauty or by its
material. Walls are geometrically imposed and structure is used to sustain and lift the
masses of the buildings over the terrain. Structure is left unseen as the building tectonic
is materialized giving strong images.
SM, House at Quinta do Lago, Almancil, Algarve, 1985
"With the Casa das Histórias, it can be said that Eduardo Souto de Moura has adopted and
almost 'regionalist' approach, distancing himself from the modern abstractionism that has been a
dominant feature of his work. It is, however, an uncritical regionalism, that avoids the sense of
'resistante' which lay behind other attempts at the approach in Portugal in the 1980s. In this
museum created for Cascais, Souto de Moura associates certain formal devices with a legacy of
architectural composition, adopting specific formulas for the building's insertion in the
surrounding area as well as a use of scale which can be easily contextualised in a very specific
type of geography. Its close proximity to the work of Raul Lino is therefore set in a "Southern"
landscape, without resorting to any unnecessary decorative or picturesque frills." [O Arquitectar
das Casas Simples, Ana Vaz Milheiro, in Casa das Histórias Paula Rego - Arquitectura,
SM, Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, Cascais
It is possible that these volumes constitute by themselves a different conception of
ornament. Take the case of House at Moledo where Souto de Moura collects over the
horizontal roof a series of chimneys, with different heights, disposed in an orderly
manner and that are only visible from the street. Is it not possible that these objects,
although not being in some noble are of the house, by having a form not specific to its
use and a preoccupation on its position, be considered as formal ornament? We
propose they are in fact ornament. The roof is the only place one could actually
SM, Roof top of House at Moledo
SM, Exterior view , House at Moledo
The same happens in other projects if one looks differently on where to expect
In 1979 Siza develops the Frankelufer Housing (1979, finalist) competition for the
International Building Exhibition (IBA) and introduces the former patterns of buildings
as a matrix for the projects and researches the tensions between the new 6 buildings
and the city block and street. Later with Schlesisches Tor Urban Redevelopment corner
building in Berlin (Berlin, Germany, 1st prize, 1980-84, 1986-88) Siza elaborates a plastic
dynamic waving building, controlling again the tensions between the dense city and the
inside mixed-uses spaces. This building was awarded by IBA and occupies the interior
Siza, Schlesisches Tor Urban Redevelopment
The surface and rhythm of the façade link the new building with the existing rigid
connecting block facades but cut with the alignments as a new larger motive of
ornament for the city. The building skin is, at a level of urban analysis, a new way of
ornamenting the city. The marking in the wall BONJOUR TRISTESSE is there for a
reason. Not a scar but a message, a special mark in the plaster, forged from early
conception times for communication purpose, embellishing the building and giving it a
strong social and political purpose.
In the Salzburg Hotel (Austria, Competition, 1987- wilful
(deformed) axiality and its urban adornment achieved through contrast of materials and gigantic
flag poles a mise en scene of prudent urban and compositional continuity with the
Mitteleuropaisch city read by means of the tools of neo-academicism. The second project [proposal
#2 1989] is an object that constitutes itself, in terms of a rigorous logic of construction and
material, at the cost of making worse the urban articulation which it felt obliged to establish in
the first version(Angelillo, 1996)
SM, Salzburg Hotel, View from the building model
SM, Salzburg Hotel, View from the building model
of the language to be deployed is restricted to the surface, a field open to all sorts of dangerous
artistic gestures. The result aimed to achieve a clear implantation of a harmonious volumetry
within a container-type façade, capable of diluting the impositions of a five story structure onto a
street lined by neo-classical villas displaying their volutes, cornises and entablatures with
dignity(Peretti and Bortolotti, 1999, p.113)
The surface of concrete and the reminiscence of its previous cladding is used by Siza in
a remarkable way at the Leça swimming pool and years after by Souto de Moura at the
Casa das Histórias. Clearly they Siza takes the ornament produced in direct brutalism
opposition between nature and man built structures; while Souto uses an ornamented
surface reflecting the not only the plasticity of the imagery, but also the roof need to
deal with rain (on rainy days the way surface is designed produces an unique stream of
rain water along the shaped faces of the roof).
Siza, Ocean Swimming Pool (1961-66)
SM, Casa das Histórias Paula Rego (2009)
it is unclear whether
it arrives from as aseptic rigour or from the scarcity of means related to his first works
Siza starts competing in Berlin (with IBA) following important work in Portugal dealing
population arriving from the rural inland. The work in SAAL was early shown by Nuno
Portas in Spain and led to the quick interest and internationalization of Álvaro Siza. He
was initially seen as being capable of addressing the architectural needs of the Turkish
immigrants in Berlin.
This scarcity of means makes Siza focus on rationality, history and territory. Thus the
lack of colour is a condition of the South Mediterranean culture, facing the rigour heat
of the sun, and expresses an attempt to face, first in Portugal at São Vitor and at
Malagueira, and then at Berlin, a link to the past.
Colour is introduced later on. Take for instance the ceramic tiles at Portuguese Pavilion
at the Lisbon Expo98. It is used to emphasize the vertical and horizontal volumes, plus
to confine and limit spaces. But their colour, texture, pattern and shine play an
important role to close open public space and give [iconic] identity to the building.
Siza, Portuguese Pavilion, Expo98, View from the covered plaza
Siza, Portuguese Pavilion, Expo98, View of the exterior
Semper, taking Quatermére de Quincy views on polychromy against Winckelmann view of ancient Greek white plaster
(Spelman, 1997, pp.12)
We could also argue that stone plays as important role in giving colour distinctiveness
and hierarchy - to spaces, in particular to domestic spaces. The colour of the white
stone, its shade and natural design gives contrast to areas and provides distinctive
meanings. The degree of detail used by Siza in the placement of stone, its patterns and
fixings, its dimensions (varying form a simple superficial layer to massive dimensions)
supports the idea of sensible ornamentation beyond construction.
On the other hand, Souto-de Moura in his first competitions uses colour as one of the
physical characteristics of a material, thus it is the tectonic construction that generates
colour and ornament. In older projects as the Arts House, Cultural Center he uses the
different colour of materials of each construction layer to ornament the entrance. In
recent projects, like the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, Souto de Moura introduce
colour as a theme for surface ornament. Red-coloured concrete revealing its
construction technique is used in order to produce the communication intent of
relevance and contrast. Although not necessarily ornament, colour is used in the same
SM, Casa das Histórias Paula Rego
SM, Casa das Histórias Paula Rego
With this museum, Souto de Moura develops a form of "modern-day architecture" without, in
fact, repeating any of the "old models" - in keeping with the ideas defended by Aldo Rossi in his
scientific autobiography - evoking timeless archetypes from urban iconography: towers,
lighthouses, silos and chimneys, like the ones that define the profile of the Palácio de Sintra. It is
therefore not surprising, if one continues the "analogy", that, when describing this museum,
Souto de Moura also mentioned the pronounced roofs of Raul Lino's palaces, or the idea of an
"inhabited chimney", evoking that of the kitchen in the monastery of Alcobaça. In fact, in its best
interpretation, the Casa das Histórias can be seen as a "historicist" project, a condition that will
certainly surprise Souto de Moura's most faithful followers and confound his harshest critics."[O
Palácio Escarlate, Nuno Grande, in Casa das Histórias Paula Rego - Arquitectura, 2009]
SM, Casa das Histórias Paula Rego
The perception of Alvaro Siza and Souto de Mouro is experienced with all senses.
Buildings surpass the mere functionality of space and the user is taken into a rich
With the Bibliothèque National de France (BnF) (Paris, competition, 1989/90) Siza has a
very complex programme to order, and an even more complex symbolic dimension to
give to the building. With a very remarkable site near the river, he proposes an example
explicit will to produce a coherent and traditional urbanism, without contrasting with the
spirit of historic architecture [with the city]. Such is the Portuguese Álvaro Siza, with its
terraces, gates, cloisters and courtyards and an austerity and deceiving general image of a large
seminar (Jamet, Association pour la Bibliotheque de France and Institute Français
a peaceful architecture. As national
and international symbol, the library, as well as intensive use, the design is set forward as a
generous exterior and interior spaces, as well as small volumes for researcher and readers
(Jamet, Association pour la Bibliotheque de Fran
Siza, Bibliothèque National de France (BnF) (Paris, competition, 1989/90)
Siza often speaks of architecture as sculpture, of how space is shaped in a poetic
by being in it, through physical experience(Ursprung,
Centre C Architecture and Herzog & de Meuron, 2005, p.402), not only by
privileging the sense of sight but by interacting with the other senses (Pallasmaa, 2012).
The experience of his architecture is a confrontation between what is rational, what is
abstract, what is subjective and expressionist and the body. Siza repeatedly experiences
inhabiting his buildings and, by doing so, he makes the (his) body the centre of the
experimental world. Ornament is sensed that way, through the full experimentation of
Siza, Bibliothèque National de France (BnF) (Paris, competition, 1989/90)
However Siza is keen on the illusionary transformation of the three dimensions to two,
and uses this fallacy as continuous research material to fix and stage his spaces. Space is
somehow ornament for Siza. Thus one would feel tempted to mark the importance of
the visual sense over others. Drawing is a form of communication with oneself or
with others. For the architect is also, amongst many other things a way of learning,
understanding, communicating, transforming; a way of designing.Siza, 1997, p.17)
At the Museum of Contemporary Art (Kiasma) at Helsinki (Finland, competition, 1993)
find new approaches to museum design (The Finish Association of
Architects, 1993). His entry, presented together with Souto de Moura, is embebed with
the memory and partial implementation of the Urban Center Masterplan for Helsinki
by Alvar Aalto (1959-
organization. Yet the jury judges negativelthe building itself was not
inviting. (…) On the whole, the design is too closed-in for its purpose. The ingenious façade
composition and sculptural massing fail to compensate for this deficiency
Siza and Sout From the perspective of the museum’s internal
organization there is once again a great variety of rooms in terms of size, ceiling height and
lighting. The lighting is sourced almost exclusively via skylights. We took special care in
organizing a peripheral gallery around the building’s perimeter in order to provide independent
access, connecting the warehouses and the exhibition preparation rooms to all other rooms, and
thus avoiding interference between existing exhibitions and the assembly of new exhibitions
(Fernandes, Castanheira, Siza and Museu Serralves, 2005) Architecture is not an exact
science and different feelings can coexist leading to opposing situations and losses.
Other important factors are his extraordinary sensitivity towards local
materials, craft work, and, above all, to the subtleties of local light-his sense for a particular kind
of filtration and penetration
With Souto de Moura the senses are more tactile, more related to the experience of the
material, its layer, positions, contrasts, oppositions and complementarities. He uses the
characteristics of materials softness or rigidness, warmth or coldness, natural or
artificial to mood the space and thus ornament it. It is as if construction technique
and the true nature of material could be sufficient to produce all the communication
necessary to function as ornament.
To this respect Siza says in 1988I am not sure what materials to choose. Ideas come to me as
immaterial, as lines on white paper, and when I want to fix them I have doubts, they escape, they
wait at a distance. (…) those who are more capable allow the things that they thought of – as
material – to adhere to the material that they did not think of. There they stay, until the first
storms lay bare what was only to be expected: they do not exist p.201-202) To
Siza materials are not in the idea drawn, they are not in the competitions drawings.
Sometimes only textures or surfaces appear. They are defined later and reflect the needs
of construction, sometimes influenced externally by a team effort to support and erect
the building. On some projects (i.e. Malagueira Residential District, 1977-) Siza uses
materials as statements of hierarchy of functions, within a house, a building or the city.
Drawing by Siza
To Souto de Moura material is dealt differently, it is part of the Idea of the project or
competition and is researched at the same time as the project develops. With the Bank
(competition, 1993) Souto de Moura experiences a competition with no particular site
This is not a competition or a project, but the
construction of a model of a possible building with no specific location. The project, in the sense
of a catalogue for the implementation of an idea, is limited to the construction drawings and its
transportation case. What is left is a sort of material archive which gradually turned into a final
idea as it was developed(Capezzutto, 1994, p.74)
SM, The Bank, Plan drawings over Tàpies
(Capezzutto, 1994, p.75)
SM, The Bank, Collage concept image (© SM)
Reference images, like those from the work of Tàpies, also provide research material for
facades and detailed sketches or models. From initial stacks of concrete beams, to stacks
of iron elements to overlaps of wood stacking systems, images are used as project
material and potential structures capable of originating space.
With the same need to erase the stories, Souto de Moura uses the same principle of the
by the materiality chosen, as if buildings could restore the nature of the material in
In one initial competition in Portugal (Art Houses - Cultural Center, Porto, 1981-91)
Souto de Moura experiments with materials and with their construction layers, as if
there was as intention to leave a clue on how he detailed the wall.
SM, Cultural Center, Porto
SM, Cultural Center, Porto
SM. Cultural Center, Porto
This became, at that time one of the most remarkable feats of his work. Either
construction truth, or ornament, this wall contributes to an imagery undissociated from
the materials but seldom seen.
When Siza and Souto de Moura were invited to do the Serpentine Gallery (London) in
2005 they proposed a structure that could create a dialogue between the idea of a
pavilion and the park. The distorted rectangular grid and the interlocking timber beams
create an exquisite space of domestic scale.
Siza & SM, Serpintine Pavillion
The structure, rhythms and patterns from the pavilion question the perception of the
building and the definition of ornament. There is a balance between the rectangular
panels and their inter connections also regular. New materials combine with a
contemporary design with acute attention to the surroundings and to the park.
Siza & SM, Serpintine Pavillion
These pavilions have been a display of star architects, avid to show their most playful
creations. Yet Siza and Souto de Moura remain humble and sensitive, not mistaking his
background (cultural and ethical) and achievements with populism (as Frampton
opposes critical regionalism to the demagogic tendencies of
populism ). It is a time to work
jointly: "We worked at the same table, sometimes both writing in different corners of the same
piece of paper" says Siza. "It's a work of friendship and amusement. It's like a holiday! Because
one of the attractions of this work is that there is no bureaucracy, no need to know about
regulations. It was very free." (Rose, 2005)
nor subtraction without loss” (…) This is the problem and the paradox of ornamentation that
neither inclusion nor exclusion of the ornamental can overcome. This is, however, a problem and
a paradox only insofar as one wishes to sustain the power and the authority to exclude and
delimit in the name of the beautiful, i.e., the power and authority to control architecture. Hence,
the preoccupation with the place and placing of ornamentation, with its marginalization or
domestication, if only to sustain the pervasive and persuasive illusion of architecture as an
autonomous aesthetic object, self-governing, self-regulating, and self-imposing
Both Portuguese Pritzker prized architects Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de
Moura are able to envision an a representation of the
imagination, annexed to a given concept
Genius is the talent (natural endowment) which gives the rule to art. Since talent, as an innate
productive faculty of the artist, belongs itself to nature, we may put it this way: Genius is the
innate mental aptitude (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art
They participate in several competitions at different levels: (1) a level of formal
competence - in arranging spaces in terms of its functionality in space organization -
and (2) a second level of superficial communication -
structure and surface could constitute, by itself, a single, scaled work of ornament
within a site or a city.
Somehow, ornament in both their architecture privileges being as becoming, as
transformation or as constant change (Cache, 1995) fixed in space by the project as an
integrated identity. We directly contradict clean
is deprive white minimalist
Souto de Moura seems to be examples.
Siza Vieira and Souto de Moura share a common cultural heritage, a rich international
professional practice and a profound reflective attention to architecture. This condition
makes them aware of the complexity of relations and intentions that architecture
undergoes and has to respond to. The examples shown prove the existence of layers of
ornament within the skin of the building reflecting an ongoing rhetoric pursuit of
competence in design and aesthetic values. These intensions are strongly present in
Beauty is a cooperative venture, an act of mediation between and among values and
things, residing neither in us nor in things. Beauty is constructed by the values and the
qualities one may sense in an object of contemplation.
The beauty and poetics of architecture comes from
and reflect the ethical conscious of the architect as “(…) architecture can’t just be the
answer to a problem: that is called construction, not architecture. Architecture is construction
plus some added value which is creating sensations that make people feel good. It can never be
premeditated, if it is, it is a disaster(Souto, Moura, Rangel, Martins, Sá and Faria, 2009a,
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All images are exclusively used for academic purposes and their credits remain with
Álvaro Siza Vieira (ASV) and Eduardo Souto de Moura (SM).
To CHAIA (Centre for Art History and Artistic Research) for providing financial
support for travel expenses.
To Álvaro Siza Vieira and his office for the graphic material included.
This paper is part of a Ph.D research funded by POPH - QREN Portugal 2007-2013 (4.1
Typology Advanced Education) and by the national budget MCTES (SFRH / BD /
45345 / 2008)
Pedro Miguel Hernandez Salvador Guilherme
Architect, Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, 1991
M.Eng., Faculdade de Ciencias e tecnologia, Universidade de Coimbra, 1996
Ph.D Student, Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, 2009-2013
Sofia Maria Mendes Barbosa da Costa Salema
Architect, Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, 1994
M.Sc in Architectural Heritage, Universidade de Évora, 2006
Ph.D in Architecture, Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, 2012
CHAIA (Centre for Art History and Artistic Research), Universidade de Évora
Palácio do Vimioso, Largo Marquês de Marialva, 8, 7000-809 Évora, Portugal
(+351) 266706581, www.chaia.uevora.pt/en
Faculdade de Arquitectura, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa
Rua Sá Nogueira, Pólo Universitário, Alto da Ajuda, 1349-055 Lisboa, Portugal
(+351) 213615000, www.fa.utl.pt