Siza often said that ‘nothing is invented, there is a past for everything.’ Are most of the design courses based on the historical background? Can you use your work as an example of how to innovate under limited historical conditions?
In the university it is always stressed the importance of history to each building. It is funny, on the other day I was seeing an interview someone was doing with Siza, and he was talking about an historical part of Lisbon he redid after a fire. When designing a specific area, he felt particularly proud of the design, and he noticed that it was already designed before, after an earthquake in 1755. He was saying something like: “No wonder I was proud, someone had project it before!”
I think that in the project that I did that had the most historical conditioned place we needed to work next to an important church, and to understand and respect the church, without clouding it. The most important thing is to understand the place and to understand what are the “rules”: if the buildings next to this place are all two story high, it shouldn’t be higher or lower than this, if the place has brick as the main element in the façade, then the project should contain brick in some way. It is also important to understand the constructive history of the country and use it in the projects.
Siza’s work is always white at first glance. we can tell that he has a lot of details on solution of height, material and light if we go there and see. He also said that the architect’s inspiration comes from the translation of the site, does this affect your way of thinking in design?
Yes, for sure. The site, the way the buildings are, the traditions and the history of each place is the first restrictions/characteristics of the project. On my first visit to each site, I start to draw my first ideas, and though not always these ideas go through to the end, the fact that the final solution comes from all of the process makes the first glance at the site so important for me. Most of Siza’s work has white facades, but the use of marble, white surfaces, and clear windows are more characteristic of his design. The way he controls the space, and creates particular views over one small detail, and the way he connects different elements into one cohesive building is truly inspiring.
I went to Leça swimming pools designed by Siza and felt that his work tried to get rid of the international postmodernism decoration. He wanted to hide the building mass by maximizing respect for the site. Can we say that his style is to avoid style?
We can say that his style is to respect the site and adapt to the place, while maintaining the program as clear and functional as possible. The “Tide Swimming Pool”, as we call the structure, was made during the 60’s, and while in the rest of Europe post modernism and new brutalist designs were arising a little bit everywhere, in Portugal architects were still designing traditional vernacular buildings, because politically speaking we didn’t have the freedom the rest of Europe had. It is then so interesting to see buildings like this one that stood out, while “hiding” in the view, respecting the site as much as possible, like you said. The building has all of the services next to the entrance, and then opens to the ocean and the tides renew the swimming pool water in a natural way. The structure, all made of concrete, almost reminds us of a brutalist building, exposed to the nature. It was one of the first buildings that made me think so much about architecture as a place of both nature and men.
Most people are familiar with Portuguese architects starting from the modernization of Porto in the late twentieth century, which is famous for the works of Siza , as if the works of Siza became the city card of Porto, how do you think about the architects responsibilities in aspect of continuity and evolution of city image?
A: 西扎在葡萄牙建筑中十分重要，当然，但在他之前还有很多建筑师，像Marques da Silva，Fernando Távora，同样是城市构建中重要的人物。徳莫拉也是也重要的建筑师，尤其在市政工程方面，例如城市地铁。让城市（例如波尔图）继续发展是一个重要的责任，因为这是一个有很多历史的城市。特别是有很多优秀的建筑师，在他们周边做任何建筑都会成为挑战，但是没有挑战了建筑又会是什么样呢？然而，更新城市是必要的，然后去发展新的建筑方式。所有我提到的建筑师都有不同的设计方法，他们都不同的背景和不同个的风格，有些和其他人相似，但他们都对城市的建设作了贡献，让城市更好。建筑师最重要的角色就是让城市继续发展，有更好的职能，技术和对需求的功能有所回应。
Siza is really important in the architecture of Porto, yes, but before him there were other architects, like Marques da Silva, or Fernando Távora, that also were key figures in the structure of the city as it is today. Souto de Moura is also an important architect that is continuing this work, especially in infra-structures, as the city “metro”. It is a big responsibility to continue a city such as Porto, because it is a city with so much history, and especially with so many great architects, that building next to any of them would always be a challenge, but what would be architecture without challenges? It is, however, always necessary to renew cities, and to explore new ways of building. All of the architects I mentioned had different ways of designing, all of them came from different backgrounds with different styles, some closer than others, but all of them gave something of themselves to the construction of the city, and to make it better. The biggest role of the architect should be to continue the city on the way that can be a good functional, technical and formal response to the program needed.