Alvaro Siza

born 25 June 1933

Born Álvaro Joaquim de Melo Siza Vieira
Matosinhos, Portugal
Alma mater University of Porto



  • Faculty of Architecture, Porto

Álvaro Joaquim de Melo Siza Vieira, GOSE, GCIH, GCIP (born 25 June 1933), is a Portuguese architect, and architectural educator. He is internationally known as Alvaro Siza (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈaɫvɐɾu ˈsizɐ]) and in Portugal as Siza Vieira (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈsizɐ ˈvjejɾɐ]).

Life and career
Siza was born in Matosinhos, a small coastal town near Porto. He graduated in architecture in 1955, at the former School of Fine Arts of the University of Porto, the current FAUP – Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto. He completed his first built work (four houses in Matosinhos) even before ending his studies in 1954, the same year that he first opened his private practice in Porto. Siza Vieira taught at the school from 1966 to 1969, returning in 1976. In addition to his teaching there, he has been a visiting professor at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University; the University of Pennsylvania; Los Andes University of Bogota; and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.[1]

Along with Fernando Távora, he is one of the references of the Porto School of Architecture where both were teachers. Both architects worked together between 1955 and 1958. Another architect he has collaborated with is Eduardo Souto de Moura, e.g. on Portugal’s flagship pavilions at Expo ’98 in Lisbon and Expo 2000 in Hannover, as well as on the Serpentine Pavillon 2005. Siza’s work is often described as “poetic modernism”;[2] he himself has contributed to publications on Luis Barragán.

Among Siza’s earliest works to gain public attention was a public pool complex (named Piscinas de Marés) he created in the 1960s for Leça da Palmeira, a fishing town and summer resort north of Porto. Completed in 1966, both of the two swimming pools (one for children, the other for adults) as well as the building with changing rooms and a cafe are set into the natural rock formation on the site with unobstructed views of the sea.[3] In 1977, following the revolution in Portugal, the city government of Évora commissioned Siza to plan a housing project in the rural outskirts of the town. It was to be one of several that he would do for SAAL (Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local), the national housing association, consisting of 1,200 low-cost, housing units, some one-story and some two-story row houses, all with courtyards.[1] He was also a member of the team which reconstructed Chiado, the historic center of Lisbon destroyed by a fire in 1988.

Most of his best known works are located in his hometown Porto: the Boa Nova Tea House (1963), the Faculty of Architecture (1987–93), and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art (1997). Since the mid-1970s, Siza has been involved in numerous designs for public housing, public pools,[4] and universities. Between 1995 and 2009, Siza has been working on an architecture museum on Hombroich island, completed in collaboration with Rudolf Finsterwalder.[5] Most recently, he started coordinating the rehabilitation of the monuments and architectonic heritage of Cidade Velha (Old Village) in Santiago, an island of Cape Verde.

Commissioned after winning an international competition in 2010, Siza and Granada-based Juan Domingo Santos unveiled designs for a new entrance and visitors center at the Alhambra in 2014.[6]

In July 2014 Siza announced his decision to donate the large part of his architectural archive to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal, Canada, in order to make his materials “accessible alongside the work of other modern and contemporary architects”,[7] while also giving specific project archives to the Fundação Gulbenkian in Lisbon and Fundação de Serralves in Porto, Portugal.[8]


Library of the Escola Superior de Educação de Setúbal, 1986-1994
In 1987, the dean of Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, organized the first show of Siza’s work in the United States.[9] In 1992, he was awarded with the renowned Pritzker Prize for the renovation project that he coordinated in the Chiado area of Lisbon, a historic commercial sector that was all but completely destroyed by fire in August 1988.[1]

Other prizes include: The Golden Medal of The Superior Council of Architecture of the College of Architects of Madrid in 1988; Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture, the Prince of Wales Prize in Urban Design from Harvard University,[10] and the Alvar Aalto Medal in 1988; Portugal’s National Prize of Architecture 1993; the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Praemium Imperiale in 1998, the Wolf Prize in Arts in 2001, the Urbanism Special Grand Prize of France 2005.

Siza’s Iberê Camargo Foundation in Porto Alegre, his first project built in Brazilian territory, was honoured by the Venice Architecture Biennale with the Golden Lion award in 2002.[11] In 2007 the Brazilian Government awarded him the Cultural Merit Order Medal. More recently he was awarded the RIBA’s 2009 Royal Gold Medal[12] and the International Union of Architects’ 2011 Gold Medal.[13] Siza was awarded by the Venice Architecture Biennale (13th Edition) with the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement (2012).

Siza was conferred the title of Honoris Causa Doctor by the following universities: Polytechnic University of Valencia; École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; University of Palermo; University Menendez Pelayo, in Santander; Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería in Lima, Peru; University of Coimbra; Lusíada University of Porto; Universidade Federal de Paraíba; the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Polo delle Scienze e delle Tecnologie, in Naples; the University of Architecture and Urbanism of Bucharest “Ion Mincu”, Romania (2005); and the University of Pavia, Italy (2007). He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the American Institute of Architects, the Académie d’Architecture de France and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

An Álvaro Siza monograph can be seen on a living room table in the house of the movie character John Wick in the 2014 John Wick movie (2 minutes and 20 seconds in the beginning of the film).

Civil awards and decorations
PRT Order of Saint James of the Sword – Grand Officer BAR.png Grand Officer of the Military Order of Saint James of the Sword, Portugal (6 June 1992)[14]
PRT Order of Prince Henry – Grand Cross BAR.png Grand-Cross of the Order of Prince Henry, Portugal (9 July 1999)[14]
POR Ordem da Instrucao Publica Gra-Cruz BAR.svg Grand-Cross of the Order of Public Instruction, Portugal (6 April 2017)[14]
Selected projects

Piscinas de Marés at Leça da Palmeira

Marco de Canavezes Church

Ibere Camargo Foundation
Main article: List of works by Álvaro Siza Vieira
Works by Siza include the Iberê Camargo Foundation, the Serralves, and the New Orleans building.

2012, January: Alturas de Machu Picchu: Martín Chambi – Álvaro Siza at Work, at Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal.[15]
2014, March: Visions of the Alhambra, at Aedes am Pfefferberg, Berlin. Curator: António Choupina, Arch.[16]
2014, June: Visions of the Alhambra, at Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein. Curator: António Choupina, Arch.[17]
2015, February: Visions of the Alhambra, at Palace of Charles V, Granada. Curator: António Choupina, Arch.[18]
2015, May: Visions of the Alhambra, at National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo. Curator: António Choupina, Arch. – Official Visit of the President of Portugal to Norway[19]
2016, July: Visions of the Alhambra, at Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Curator: António Choupina, Arch.[20]
Jacinto Rodrigues: Álvaro Siza / obra e método, Livraria Civilização Editora 1992, ISBN 972-26-1099-6
Peter Testa: Álvaro Siza, Birkhäuser 1996, ISBN 3-7643-5598-0
Álvaro Siza: City Sketches, Birkhäuser 1994, ISBN 3-7643-2820-7
Jorge Figueira (Hrsg.): Álvaro Siza. Modern Redux (Text: Alexandre Alves Costa, Jorge Figueira, Hans Ibelings, Guilherme Wisnik). Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2008, ISBN 978-3-7757-2298-8 (English/German) und ISBN 978-3-7757-2276-6 (English/Portuguese) – Projects 1998–2008
Raul Betti e Greta Ruffino, Álvaro Siza, Viagem sem Programa, Red Publishing 2012, ISBN 978-88-88492-22-3
Duarte, J.P. (2001) “Customizing Mass Housing: a discursive grammar for Siza’s houses at Malagueira”, PhD Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Kenneth Frampton: Álvaro Siza. Complete Works, Phaidon, London, 2000, ISBN 978-0714840048
Philip Jodidio: Álvaro Siza: Complete Works 1952-2013,Taschen 2013, ISBN 978-3836521710
João Carmo Simões, J. Figueira, P. Tunhas: Álvaro Siza / Museu Nadir Afonso, Lisboa: monade, 2016, ISBN 978-989-99485-1-8

Museu Nadir Afonso (2016)
Pritzker Architecture Prize: Alvaro Siza Vieira, retrieved 1 May 2011.
Jonathan Glancey: A Gold Medal for Siza? About time in The Guardian, 8 October 2008
“A Portuguese Wins Pritzker Award”. New York Times. 27 April 1992.
Patrick Lynch (23 October 2008), Álvaro Siza: swimming pools with depth The Architect’s Journal.
Kieran Long (1 August 2009), Pavilion by Álvaro Siza and Rudolf Finsterwalder, Insel Hombroich Foundation, Ruhr Valley, Germany The Architectural Review.
Karissa Rosenfield (March 11, 2014), Álvaro Siza + Juan Domingo Santos Design “New Gate of Alhambra” ArchDaily.
Siza, Álvaro (23 July 2014), “Álvaro Siza’s Archive”[permanent dead link], Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA).
Qeuirós, Luís Miguel (9 July 2015). “Álvaro Siza doa 40 projectos a Serralves”. Público (Portugal).
Ouroussoff, Nicholas (5 August 2007). “Modernist Master’s Deceptively Simple World”. New York Times.
8th International Architecture Exhibition 2002 La Biennale di Venezia.
Royal Gold Medal 2009 Royal Institute of British Architects
“2011 UIA Gold Medal”. UIA. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2011.
“Cidadãos Nacionais Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas”. Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 31 July 2016.
“Alturas de Machu Picchu: Martín Chambi – Álvaro Siza at Work”. Canadian Centre for Architecture. 26 January 2012.
The Pearl of Granada remains untouched in the FAZ. May 5th, 2014. Page 14
“The Alhambra Project”. Vitra Design Museum. 13 June 2014.
“Visiones de la Alhambra”. Council of the Alhambra and Generalife. 9 February 2015.
“Álvaro Siza Vieira. Visions of the Alhambra”. National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design. 4 May 2015.
“Álvaro Siza Vieira. Gateway to the Alhambra”. Aga Khan Museum. 23 July 2016.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Álvaro Siza.
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Pritzker Architecture Prize laureates