In the exhibitions of architecture is often cast in missing a key element: the voice of the architect. This is not the case of Eduardo Souto de Moura (Porto, 1952), with fine-sarcastically explains the ups and downs of his 40-year career, represented in a selection of 40 works (some of them never made) that are on display through September 6, 2023 at the Casa da Arquitectura in Matosinhos, near Oporto. It is the largest exhibition dedicated to the Portuguese, awarded with the Pritzker in 2011 and with the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale in 2018.
the beginning and The end of these 40 years leads to the same place: a home. “It has been a coincidence, but it is revealing. I have the impression that I’m always designing a home, perhaps looking for the perfect. I don’t think I’ve achieved that.” The architect has just finished a home near Lisbon with a novelty: a curved line that dominates the building. “It is the first, yes.” He laughs as if he had done a mischief. “It is not do, I found a reason and its explanation, and is that the parking could only be accessed on the curve.” The style of Souto de Moura, who always look for cleanliness and simplicity, it breaks with that unusual decision. “It’s not that I’m upset, but yes, it is true that they have also lately I designed roof (a warehouse) and I have opened more windows, with the fear that I have”.
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last year presented at the Venice Biennale with a chapel designed for the Vatican that received numerous compliments. It was a small maze of old stone on which the architect gets the peace and light without the need of doorways. “You put a window, and everything is impregnated with a aspect home, that’s why I’m afraid of. The window needs to three-dimensional space and the modern architecture lack thickness in the walls, are narrow. I open a window and I am afraid that vibrate the wall, there is no body”.
through the exhibition, his words are telling the life that hides behind a mock-up. “This winery in the Douro is an angolan, I never spoke with him,” he says. Passes in front of the iconic museum of the painter Paula Rego’s House of Stories. “The only one who never received a critique. They like up to the donkeys”. And what about the painter? “I think yes. I met three times with her in London, it was very synthetic. At the end I asked if they liked the building. ‘It has become very rojito’, I replied”.
Forty years of works given in order to deal with the situations more surprising. “In the case of the stadium of Braga, or paid to the architects,” recalls looking at a photo of one of his best-loved works. “The ambition of the architect is to be able to intervene at all in this case, I was able to alter the landscape, an abandoned quarry”. Work, multi award-winning, the municipal stadium is located semiabandonado 15 years after its construction, or, even worse, partial interventions and capricious. “One of the most interesting, a room, Greek columns, has been transformed into a VIP parking with cement walls. It is a lack of respect and culture, but in Portugal, architects have recognized the rights of the author. Can I remove my name from the work, but not to prevent any kind of barbarity”.
The walk moves from the minimalist chapel venetian to the gargantuan hydroelectric power station of Tua, in the middle of the ribera del Duero, declared a heritage of humanity by Unesco, but very criticized by the environmental movement. “Here I am politically incorrect. When I was in charge of the project, after the Unesco had rejected one previous, I actually studied the topic of electricity production and I concluded that it was not contrary to my ecological principles. Wind energy is six times more expensive than hydraulics. Environmentalists said, ‘green, yes; concrete, no’; and I answered: ‘green, yes; cement, too.’ But we have reached a serious point, with the planet to the limit, and start to be more careful with the cement.”
in The same way in which it rejected the architecture-spectacle, it also rejects the green architecture. “I’m not interested in the architecture with slogan. Oriol Bohigas wrote Against a architecture modified. That’s it. There is only good architecture or bad. If it is good, is eco-friendly. The architecture has to be more human and more rational. There are a lot of eco-friendly building ugly and against nature”.
Souto de Moura began his career in parallel to the Revolution of the Carnations of 1974. “It was an architecture highly politicized social consciousness. The man had to be new, and the architecture, therefore, also. A lot of dialectical materialism, and little pragmatism, because to build houses we didn’t know. Fortunately, I met Siza Vieira and I worked two years with him building social housing. To the 20 years you have a lot of enthusiasm, after only grow doubts.”
the sobriety of The work of Souto de Moura never altered the hegemony of the architecture show. “I will say, however, that any dose would be appreciated. What it is if not the baroque architecture show.” The professional today is more a conductor than the creator alone. The Portuguese never believed an artist, but a creator of spaces for people. That’s why we like to bring the Porto metro: “Every day I used half a million people. I feel proud of it.”
The show plays the studio of the architect, pointing to a house. “It is mine, probably never I will finish”. On the walls, posters and pictures that he calls “my santiños”: Mies Van der Rohe (“the best”), Aldo Rossi, Donald Jupp, miles Davis (“course”) and a woman: “mine, which I also like.” The journey through these 40 years represents a minimal part of the legacy that is deposited in the institution: 604 models, 8.500 drawings and all the documentation textual and photographic of their projects. The 70% was never performed, something usual in the studies of architecture. “The writer is free to write, but the architect, not” sentence. Do you send the client? “No, just send the money,” she replied sharply. “The architecture is most beautiful is that of poverty, the more human, the more rational. The Alentejo and Andalusia have good architecture, because it has not reached the money, that ruined it”.