Sensing Spaces. (just ended)

Too bad we need the UK visas, otherwise I would not miss the Sensing Spaces exhibition that just ended in the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The idea was to call seven architects/teams to make installations taking around 23 000 square feet of their interiors, and “reimagine architecture” by addressing not only the eyes of the visitors, but also by emphasizing olfactory or haptic properties of the exhibits. Engaging visitors went also in the direction of giving them opportunity for a creative experience – by letting them finish an installation (weaving colourful plastic straws in the white space of Diébédo Francis Kéré).


One of the installations (Chilean architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen) was in a particularly strong relation with the exhibition space: it brought visitors high up to the ceiling of the hall, the closest possible to the gilded details of its decoration, that would otherwise not be experienced.


Among the great seven from all around the world, two Portuguese architects were invited to participate! Siza and Souto de Moura, the Pritzker prize winners, were present with their works. Souto de Moura was exploring heritage and meanings through creating concrete copies of the door cases and juxtaposing them with the originals. And Siza…from what I saw on the photos, it was something in the museum yard, and the information available said that it was “beautiful” 🙂

Sensing Spaces Royal Academy of Arts_Eduardo Souto de Moura_Joao Paulo Nunes_The Style Examiner (10)


The architect’s own explanation, though, cleared things up: the installation was about “the birth of column”.

Some wonderful links: (a bit about the exhibition)

(Siza talks)

The city through its windows.

My daily dose of art (and architecture) was obtained at the CPF – Portuguese Center of Photography in Porto, the place I will certainly be coming back to.

The 18th century building used to be a prison, but since 2000 it is a home to photographic exhibitions and documentation. Eduardo Souto Moura and Humberto Vieira were in charge for the adaptation project. The interior consist of just mighty stone in thick walls and cold floors, cast iron bars (it was a prison, after all) and a touch of red given by painting wooden shutters.


One of the current exhibitions attracted me particularly: “O Porto à janela” by Pedro Mesquita. It tells so much about the city, but also about its inhabitants: to make the photos possible, the artist asked people to enter their homes and get to have the views as real people do. He was ready for all kinds of hesitation and decline of access. However, hardly anyone said no!

pedro mesquita

And that’s also informative of Porto and Portugal.

P.S. The photos are from the CPF web page; the second one is my favourite Pedro Mesquita’s work from the exhibition.

Souto de Moura’s interview

I just found out that Eduardo Souto de Moura has links with Zagreb, as he has been developing two projects in Croatia. The ORIS magazine does not offer details yet, but they remind of an interview with the architect from ORIS No. 60, of 2009. Of course, I have it in my library, and one of the questions was about the Santa Maria de Bouro convent!

The authors of the interview were Luciano Basauri, Ana Dana Beroš and Vera Grimmer. Here is the excerpt related to the convent, and more generally to the philosophical concept of ruins:

Q (Oris): You said, ‘I am interested in ruins, that is what I like most about architecture, because they are the natural state of a work.’ It’s a bit pessimistic, but beautifully said. Indeed, when one approaches the Santa María do Bouro convent, one really gets the impression of a ruin, but if you come nearer, you see this whole perfect and wonderful architecture and details which are there. It seems that the whole project lives from this ambiguity.


A (the architect): There are two questions: one is ruins and Santa María do Bouro is the other. I like ruins because they are the only thing in architecture that is true. It’s so true that it is natural. Another thing is Santa Maria. First I went to see the place where the project would be made, it doesn’t matter for architecture but it is important for me. It was a monument that I knew from childhood. My mother lives there and I always visited this monument in ruins. What was really interesting here was this thing with the trees on the roof. It was the garden I liked, and I liked this room with the table in stone, and the trees on the roof, not in the earth: I proposed to make something near Távora because he was a teacher of history and he made a lot of recuperation. I made a project completely different, with these ruins and history and this very radical model. I thought that modern was glass or steel and so on. No, stone is modern, so I made this very primary tension. I showed Távora the project and he strongly criticized me. At the end, I invited Távora and Siza to lunch there, and Távora wrote me a letter saying, ‘Dear Eduardo,’ since he was my teacher as well as my friend, ‘I very much like the monastery. Since I am your teacher, I am giving you not 20 (the highest grade), but 19, because the building has no roof.’ It’s the reason why I like the ruins, because it’s like studying anatomy. The French architect Auguste Peret said that a good building gives always a good ruin.

Convento de Santa Maria de Bouro


The former convent originating from 12th century and situated in the Braga district, was adapted into a hotel in the second half of 1990s. The architect was Eduardo Souto Moura, whose idea was to create “a new building within old walls”.


According to my brief research, the traditional/historical hotels are quite popular in Portugal. There is a hotel chain “Pousadas de Portugal”, that was run by the state until 2003, when the Pestana Group took them over. This idea emerged in 1940s, upon the then minister Antonio Ferro’s initiative. There are 44 pousadas in historical buildings around Portugal now, with plans to open some more (and invite well known architects to do the conversions). The existing pousadas are divided into four groups: historical pousadas, historical design pousadas (the ones in historical buildings, but with modern architectural elements), nature pousadas, and charming pousadas (situated in “typical” buildings or places).

Hmmm, something to remember for further research and mapping!