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Gateway was the community newsletter of Pratt Institute published monthly by the Office of Communications, in the Division of Institutional Advancement through spring 2014. For current Pratt-related news, visit the News page on Pratt’s website.



In 2011, Eduardo Souto De Moura won the Pritzker Architecture Prize—arguably architecture’s most prestigious award. Although he is celebrated by many architects for his Braga Stadium completed in 2003 in Braga, Portugal, others were taken by surprise as they had never heard of the Portuguese architect. Souto De Moura spoke at Higgins Hall last month through translator Tania Branquinho, Pratt Visiting Assistant Professor in the graduate architecture and urban design program.

Tom Hanrahan, dean of the School of Architecture, introduced his work as “a deeply personal take on modern architecture and its possibilities.” This personal take on modernism suggests an inaccessibility, but in reality the architect’s simple, pure forms are so artfully assembled that they are instantly knowable and utterly universal. His material precision creates a sense of immateriality, while his understanding of site and place allows his buildings to meld with the landscape.

At his Maia House completed in Maia, Portugal in 2007, marble is used as ornament in the home’s main areas, but also at the service entrance and even the utilitarian umbrella holder is in marble. The design is deceptively simple, but on close examination one sees a complex intersection of joints elegantly dissolve, while interior wooden flooring extends outside bringing inside in, while mirrors reflect the garden beyond, creating a false depth.

From project to project—private house, tall office building, to convent conversion—there is the same elegant relationship between solid and void. In his talk Souto De Moura playfully—and repeatedly—mentioned his interest in architecture’s negative space—openings, or windows. He complained of not having the budget to use glass curtain walls at La Pallaresa Towers completed in 2011 outside Barcelona. Nonetheless, the grill-like windows he designed became the building’s design. He poked fun at his obsession with windows, noting that Mies van der Rohe, another fan of great, glazed expanses, would often need to use a flashlight to locate books on his shelves because he routinely closed the blinds.

Souto De Moura has a dry, sometimes mannerist wit that can be seen in his work. At the crematorium in Belgium currently under construction, a lake is placed adjacent to the facility for ease of distribution of ashes, while a faux chimney—a real one is not needed—serves as an unreal monument, much like a Viking monument.

As a participant in a design competition for a ring of office towers to be built in Shenzhen, China, Souto De Moura designed one with a hexagon-shaped base and another with a round base. “I looked at ancient Buddhist temples in China for inspiration,” he explained. “They have the classic form where the base is wider than the length, but in reality monks often pray upside-down,” he said, explaining that this suggested that the classic columnar model, based on the human form, should be inverted. “So I also inverted the towers, making a wide top and narrow base. They get better views and more light this way.”

Text: Bay Brown
Photos: Courtesy of Luis Ferreira Alves

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Reader Comments (1)

fantastic article
March 26, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterWhatsapp Status

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