Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa
29 AUG 2010 - 21 NOV 2010
Università Ca’ Foscari
Curators: Julia Albani, José Mateus, Rita Palma, Delfim Sardo

Participantes: Manuel e Francisco Aires Mateus, Ricardo Bak Gordon, João Luís Carrilho da Graça, Álvaro Siza (authors of the Houses), Filipa César, João Onofre, João Salaviza, Julião Sarmento (authors of the films).
Exhibition Design: Atelier do Corvo

Direcção-Geral das Artes
Additional info
Università Ca’ Foscari

Dorsoduro 3246 (Calle Larga Foscari) 30123 Venezia

No Place Like – 4 houses, 4 films Representação Oficial Portuguesa La Biennale di Venezia Photo: Leonardo Finotti

No Place Like

4 houses, 4 films

Portuguese Official Representation
12th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Portuguese Pavilion| August 29th to November 21st 2010
Università Ca’ Foscari Dorsoduro 3246 (Calle Larga Foscari) 30123 Venezia

A neighbourhood in the city moored like a boat, a house on the beach with a floor made of sand, another house camouflaged inside a city district and another looking out to the plain. How can we show them?
The duo Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus, Ricardo Bak Gordon, João Luís Carrilho da Graça and Álvaro Siza Vieira are the architects that represented Portugal in the 12th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. The curators Julia Albani, José Mateus, Rita Palma and Delfim Sardo chose 4 exemplary housing projects designed by those architects. To show them, fictional films were commissioned to Filipa César, João Onofre, João Salaviza and Julião Sarmento, who are among Portugal’s most outstanding artists and film directors. The houses presented through the films are all located in Portugal and correspond to different topologies, conditions, and context. Atelier do Corvo were the invited Coimbra based architecture studio for the exhibition design.

The Portuguese exhibition was held at Ca’ Foscari University, a renowned public institution and a prestigious space in the city of Venice located in the great curve of the Grand Canal. The Portuguese participation was organised and produced by the Ministry of Culture’s Direcção-Geral das Artes, in collaboration with the Lisbon Architecture Triennale.

4 Houses

Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus
House in Comporta Comporta, Grândola, 2008 – 2010

The house is located on the Portuguese coast, 130 km south of Lisbon and involves the renovation of four existing structures set directly on the beach sand. The house’s functions are divided among the four constructions connected only by the sandy ground. This simultaneously splendid and primitive house works on a spatial continuity that is “inside-out”, starting with what’s most basic, most fundamental – the ground. Like the sand that outside and inside caresses our bare feet. And even though the architect’s synopsis says that the project responds to very specific conditions, I believe that the answer, and that’s what’s so very right about this house, is its universality. This house is a universal house. 

Campos Baeza, Alberto, 2010* 

João Luís Carrilho da Graça
Candeias House
S. Sebastião da Giesteira, Évora, Portugal. 1999-2008

The Candeias House is located in a small inland village in Southern Portugal. The project, arranged around a patio overlooking the Alentejo plain, was conceived for the architect’s sister. The patio looks out to the open countryside, but the pool carved out of the podium’s edge, frames it like if it was a backdrop in the distance. Only the diagonal shift of the section, corresponding to the living room’s opening onto the patio reveals a compromise on the rights of the landscape, while at the same time endowing a thickness, a shading, to the plan on which it is outlined. Whether observing the construction from the base of the podium or approaching from the closed side of the patio (at the same level), the house seems to be floating in the landscape like a precise arrangement of suspended lightweight volumes.

Dal Co. Francesco, 2010*

Ricardo Bak Gordon
2 Houses in Santa Isabel
Lisboa, Portugal, 2003 - 2010

The houses in Santa Isabel are located in Campo de Ourique, a middle-class central Lisbon district with republican and liberal traditions. The project is on the inside of a city block, hidden from the street. The houses in Santa Isabel, however, with its multitude of courtyards, are more closely aligned to the Chinese house type of plan. This arrangement makes clever use of a site in the middle of a city block. As a result of their exact location, the houses are somewhat hidden, and neither has any view onto the street. The courtyards are arranged as a constellation of open spaces resulting in a complex spatial matrix. Each courtyard has its own character and programme, and each one should be understood as an exterior room.

Sergison, Jonathan, 2010*

Álvaro Siza Vieira
Porto, 1973 – 1978, 2001 – 2006

The Bouça project in central Porto started in 1973 and became a SAAL (Mobile Local Support Service) operation in 1975. The first construction phase ended in 1978 and work only resumed in 2000. In the second phase the complex was renovated and finally completed in 2006. The completion of Álvaro Siza’s Bouça Housing project in the centre of Porto allows us to reflect on a number of issues. For those of my generation this project remains a reference not only for housing typology but also for the resilience of its architectural approach. On the other hand, over the intervening 30 years we have witnessed the gradual loss of focus on the subject of social housing. With the erosion of leadership and vision on behalf of the public authorities and the increasing role of the commercial sector the social agenda for such projects has been replaced by the priorities of the commercial market. The context of Bouça challenges the role of architectural composition and innovation, beyond the intelligent and considerate planning both of the apartments and of the complex.

David Chipperfield, 2010*

4 films

How then can these houses be show, if not via films? On the one hand, the serial aspect (in Bouça’s case), the narrative nature of Bak Gordon’s house, the fiction of Aires Mateus or the intuition of the charriot that carries the camera around Carrilho da Graça’s house in Évora, demanded to be depicted in films. In this regard, the invitation addressed to three fine artists and a film director to make shorts films representing each one of the houses we presented, aims to restore this connection between architecture and its cinema-form, here built up through the eyes of Filipa César, who filmed Bouça; João Onofre, who considered the house planned by Bak Gordon; Julião Sarmento, who presents the Évora house by Carrilho da Graça; and João Salaviza, who fictionalised the Comporta house by Aires Mateus. These films, which add another layer of systems of representation, contain the relationship that made these projects be chosen: their individuality, their specific nature, the way they assume the idiosyncrasy of their poetics and that paradoxically are the axis of their universality.

Filipa César
“Porto, 1975”,
2010 9’40’’, 16 mm transferred to HD
variable dimensions
Courtesy Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art

João Onofre
“Sem Título (SUN 2500)”, 2010
Vídeo HD mono-channel, HD
PAL, 16:9, colour, sound
Courtesy Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art

João Salaviza
“Casa na Comporta”, 2010
20’’, film format: 2K 1:85
projection format: 16:9

Julião Sarmento
“Cromlech”, 2010
38’27’’, video HD mono-channel,
PAL (1080i), 16:9, colour, sound
variable dimensions
Courtesy Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, Lisbon/Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

*in “No Place Like – 4 houses, 4 films”, 120 pages, Direcção-Geral das Artes/Ministério da Cultura, 2010 (catalogue)