Portuguese Pritzkers: Learning from The Masters

Page Designer Marco Martinez carried on an unofficial firm tradition of winning the McDermott Traveling Fellowship by the Dallas Center for Architecture, which has since rebranded as the Architecture and Design Foundation – Dallas AD EX. His proposal involved traveling to Portugal to study works of two Pritzker-winning architects, Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto da Moura respectively. He also set out to explore the works of other architects that have contributed to the rich and diverse architecture in Portugal. To learn about Marco's trip of a lifetime in his own words, read below.

Portugal is significant for its history, culture and of course architecture. Its strategic location on the Iberian Peninsula allowed this small corner of Europe to become a maritime leader and a major colonial power. Lisbon and Porto served as my base cities and from there I took various day trips to nearby towns. 

In Lisbon, I visited Parque das Nacoes and its Portuguese Pavilion, built for the World Expo of 1998 and converted to public used afterward. The pavilion was designed by architect Alvaro Siza’s office in collaboration with Eduardo Souto da Moura. The design pushes the structural capabilities of steel and concrete with a canopy that expands approximately 300 feet. The canopy is a thin layer of concrete held up by steel cables similar to those on a suspension bridge, and hangs like a cloth between two porticos. 

I took a day trip to the small fishing village of Cascais, about an hour train ride away from Lisbon, where I visited Casa das Historias Paula Rego. A modern museum designed by architect Eduardo Souto da Moura for the renowned Portuguese artist Paula Rego, its two red-orange chimney/pyramid-like towers are immediately recognizable from the street. Souto da Moura used traditional construction materials and colors in a contemporary way for the design. The museum houses permanent works by Rego and traveling collections by other artists as well as an auditorium for private and public events. 

In Porto, I visited Casa da Musica designed by Rem Koolhaas of OMA in the early 2000s. Porto was known as the European capital of culture and OMA’s design was chosen for the city’s newest theater and opera house. OMA’s goal was to, “redefine the relationship between the hallowed interior and the exterior public space” and the idiosyncratic exterior design gives way to individual interior spaces. Casa da Musica became an immediate success and world renowned for its geometrical design and unique exterior shell. 

Another day trip was to the Swimming Pools of Leça de Palmeira by Alvaro Siza, one of his earlier projects built in the 1960s. As I had studied them in school, being there was truly special. Siza plays on expanding and contracting volumes as visitors proceed from the street level to the swimming pools. As the pools are right up against the ocean, some of the boulders on the beach are used as retaining walls. It is a harmonious balance with nature and architecture, truly timeless and simple. 

The MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) museum is sited along the Lisbon waterfront promenade in the historical neighborhood of Belem. This modern structure was designed by Amanda Levete of  AL_A, a woman-led and top firm in the UK. The museum’s exterior design is a unique cantilevering façade that looks like a spaceship or the mouth of a great white shark right at the edge of the water. The design incorporates the traditional but varied use of tiles on the exterior of the building and a public terrace on its roof with 360-degree views of the Tagus River.   

These projects are significant examples of the rich architecture that has shaped Portuguese history and culture, yet there are far many more structures that also contribute to the country’s reputation as a design destination.

Contributed By

Marco Martinez, Page Designer