“Des Yeux Qui Ne Voint Pas” by António Choupina
I must confess that – due to a broken foot – my enchantment with nature was somewhat faded. Staring at these photographs became an almost cathartic experience, serenity washing over in a dream, renewing a passion for the universe that created architecture and that, in turn, is recreated by it. If the Boa Nova Tea House were like Saramago’s stone raft, adrift in a vast ocean, then the Serralves Museum would be like one of Cesário Verde’s bucolic poems, bathed in idyllic foliage. From the very first page, one discovers the building romantically dressed in seasonal vegetation, enveloped in a curtain of greenery, which drapes leaves as floating water lilies and droplets of rain. Distant windows seem to emerge beyond the sumptuous filter, manipulating a type of picturesque nostalgia: the primitive longing for a Garden of Eden or the simple magic of a child playing outside. Having planted an oak tree in Serralves, this interpretation might be biased by my own boyish recollections or, perhaps, the landscape architect was just prone to episodes of refined apophenia. João Gomes da Silva was invited by Álvaro Siza to help mediate the relationship with Jacques Gréber’s 1932 designs, supposedly inspired by the geometries of Versailles. When Siza’s Alhambra project was exhibited here, in 2017, I pointed out that Gréber’s octagons and waterlines were connected to Granada – like those of Luis Barragán or Louis Kahn. In fact, all of Serralves can be viewed as a modern-day Alhambra and not because of its embellished gardens, protected by a stone wall, but because of its sequencing of spaces, of light and shade. (...) "The phonomenology and identity of the bond between architecture and nature" by Pedro Leão Neto Mark Durden and João Leal’s photography series at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art constitute an aesthetic endeavour that reveals some of the Siza’s most significant traits. The Serralves is an architecture that affords a home to other arts, often allowing the exhibited art to be displayed in oneness with the place and not presented as isolated artefacts, as occurs, for example, with Pedro Cabrita Reis’s sculptures, which have established a strong connection with the exhibition spaces. Mark and João’s series create a visual narrative that brings together Serralves’ abstraction and poetics, as well as underscoring the significant relationship that the museum creates with the natural surroundings of the park1. Álvaro Siza has explained that the museum’s vision required him to create a design with the least possible impact on the surrounding urban setting and to avoid disrupting the gardens of the park and the Villa. (...)
"In praise of light and shadows" by Nuno Grande
The interaction of light and shadow has always fascinated architects, and even more so since Le Corbusier’s famous quote from 1923, published in Vers une Architecture, in which he describes architecture as “the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light”. This game, which thus motivated the painters of Purism and Cubism – among whom Le Corbusier would come to be included – contributed in great part to the definition of the aesthetic ideals of the artistic avant-garde in the West in the first half of the 20th century. Associated with the purity of crystal, with the idea of total transparency, and with the blurring of the boundaries between the interior and the exterior, this very same game served as the conceptual premise of (and later as a critical challenge to) the architecture of the Modern Movement. (...) The photographic work of Mark Durden and João Leal focusing on Álvaro Siza’s work in Porto – now published by Scopio Newspaper – goes in search of not only this same game of shadows upon the target surfaces of the façades and the interiors of the buildings but also the multiplicity of transparencies and penumbras that unfold through their ample glazed windows. The photographs do not shun the presence of nature, of the inhabitant, or of the citizen; to the contrary, they seek out these precise moments of the day in which, at the same time, the trees are reflected or cast shadows on Siza’s architecture and in which the human presence-absence is revealed in the objects or graffiti left on it. It is as if, for Mark Durden and João Leal, Siza’s works were blank pages waiting for daily life to be written or printed upon them. This perspective “upon” the walls or “through” the windows of the building takes on a near ghost-like character, something that is reinforced by its colourless tone, intentionally created by overexposure to the milky light at dawn or dusk. In these images, one feels the spectral presence of Le Corbusier or Adolf Loos – depicted in the fenêtre en longueur, or in the small “eyes” of the Faculty of Architecture building – or perhaps Alvar Aalto or Bruno Taut, in the rhythm alternating between the stairs, verandas and galleries of the Bairro da Bouça. These phantoms “live” there, reminding us that the best architecture is always the result of a revisit with and a crisscrossing of countless memories. (...) "A conversation with nature and the temporality of light/reflexes" by Pedro Leão Neto The series start by capturing the geometric forms and elements of some of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto´s buildings and it is clear from the start how light and reflections are the nuclear elements that are explored when responding to the edifices’ poetics and the geometries of the constructed forms. It is in the observation of the temporality of light/reflexes and in reimagining its realms within that the series offers another perspective on the FAUP spaces, one that is renewed, a perspective of a graceful understanding through the distortions and abstractions of the buildings’ structures. (...)
Page spread from JOCA journal 05
Page spread from JOCA journal 05
Feb.2019 - Published in JOCA journal 05
The first publication of the project featured in The Journal of Civic Architecture, Volume 5, in 2018.
This was our text accompanying the images:
'As John Szarkowski noted in his introduction to his 1956 book of photographs of Louis Sullivan’s architecture: “When photographers of the nineteenth century first used their cameras to describe formal architecture, they were concerned with buildings the content of which had died, however alive the forms remained.” (Szarkowski, 2000) According to Szarkowski, the problem with architectural photography is that it has continued with this habit of concentrating on the forms of architecture, so much so that “the building became as isolated from life as the insect enclosed in the amber paperweight.” (Szarkowski, 2000) In contrast, his photographs were concerned with the buildings’ “life facts” as well as their “art facts”— a work of formal architecture was approached as a “real building, which people had worked in and maimed and ignored and perhaps loved” (Szarkowski, 2000).
This series of photographs takes its cue from Szarkowski’s approach. The photographs do not attempt to illustrate the buildings and resist the tendency to isolate its subject from its lived context. In our pictorial response to Álvaro Siza Viera’s buildings, we were very much aware that we were photographing after, in the wake of another’s much more encompassing and comprehensive art. Our concern as a result has been very much with the tensions between photography and architecture.
The Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto involves a virtuoso play of geometric forms and elements, a hyper or embellished modernism. Our photography responded to this by concentrating on the distortions and abstractions of the buildings’ structures through reflections, as well as the drawings and models of student work that could be seen through windows. This allowed us to respond both to the chimerical quality of the buildings and the imaginary and creative realms within. The Carlos Ramos Pavillion, functioning as a further part of the school of architecture, is set within a garden and it is the building’s relationship to this that is integral to our pictures— the geometries and white walls of its structure may jar with its natural setting but also allows integration in providing surfaces on which shadows fall. The pavillion’s exterior is constantly animated by what surrounds it. The large expanses of glass that surround the interior court of the building allowed us to continue the dynamic established with our pictures of the Faculty of Architecture. The Bouça photographs are the most straightforward. Our fascination here is with tensions between the buildings’ modernist forms and the play of light and shadow upon them, between the symmetries of its structures and the "life facts" of everyday clutter connected with the houses’ occupancy and use, as well as the ever-changing graffiti: wild, colourful, scabrous and vulgar.'
Szarkowski, J. (2000). The Idea of Louis Sullivan. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.