The City of Porto’s real estate worth has increased as of summer 2010. The reason is a simple choice made by a civilian to design & build his own personal residence and atelier in this simple city. The catch is that firstly there is absolutely nothing simplistic about this particular residence/atelier and even more of its owner an architect known simply as Álvaro Leite Siza Vieira.
This project was a complete detailed work in progress. To quote Siza ‘I pursued an ideal and achieved a dream’. The award winning Architect filled the shoes of all the different roles needed in order to achieve his dream. He became the client, supervisor, coordinator and project director and he was more then happy to do this. The project commenced in 2004 and was completed in 2010. A six year design/construction process of complete and utter prime control, with an outcome that fulfilled all the architect’s needs aspirations and visions. A project such as this needed time for every detail to be thought through thoroughly then put into practice and then altered to work to perfection, it also demanded excellence, organization, laughter, frustration, drama, tension and great strength.
The structural forms of the residence/atelier are volumetrically organized by horizontal and vertical sections. The ground floor perimetric façade consists of a rectangular form with protruding entrance openings mirroring the framing to the floor creating a strong symbolical relation between outside and inside. A symbolic relation achieved in the strongest and most successful way that we have come across up to now. The greatest detail of this approach is the part grey floor section to the floor frame blending in with the paving material. A true success. This outside in relation is even more dominant by the independent cubicle structures slightly detached from the main building. It is almost like the whole structure is in motion with everything from the landscape motioning towards the main house. This whole solidity acts as a support system to the organic oversized upper level. A form with strong and dynamic protruding angles combined with a suspended cuboid type at the end and a cut out open air walkway leading to angular protruding shapes with views to the landscape abyss.
All the areas have been designated to relate to their functions as well as to their surroundings. One atelier faces the street while the house relates to the landscape and the underground to the foundations with sections in granite. All these sections are easily broken up into public and social use of space with the control of natural daylight throughout the structure by openings and respective skylights. All these aspects create the primal scope for the interior use in relation to the structure and all that is around it.
The residential interior is truly a dream come true. Stark whiteness, open spaces, simplistic balustrades, cut out staircases, wood flooring and custom details brings a sense of clarity to both mind and lifestyle. One of the most dynamic features is the skinned ceiling exposing the raw shell of the structure with a decorative detail. It is a museum type archaeological symbology to that of remembering where you came from and how you got here. Inside all is Siza. The lamps, the light, the doorknobs, the doors, the hand rails, furniture and even some paintings have been designed by the owner especially for this residence. Even some timeless pieces of furniture of the XIX century have been passed down from family generations for this one of a kind residence. Our favourite room is down stairs to the stairway to water. An indoor swimming pool with the same mirrored frame detail as the exterior except here we see the reflection on the ceiling. A place of worship where the modern Cleopatra’s demands are met. Once downstairs hello nirvana.
This residence/atelier has been Álvaro Siza’s dream, and it has now become the inspiration for many young architects to strive for perfection. If this is what becomes of a six year Calvary we want to wish Mr. Siza to the next 6 years.
The aggression of exterior create symbolic tensions, pressures that recognize themselves of outside to inside, reducing their volumetry, giving rise to one figurative image. Through a geometric rigorous abstraction to make possible the constructive system, built by lozenges associated in different angles that confer higher tridimensionality, I found the proportion that I wanted, the horizontality I wished, the orientation predefined, the objectified and determined direction.