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Álvaro Siza: ‘For me, making architecture means starting with what is there’

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Álvaro Siza on his design for the Sensing Spaces exhibition

You walk along Piccadilly with all its traffic and find yourself in front of the big archway. Through it you see the courtyard, which comes as a surprise. The scale is domestic rather than monumental, but the building’s facade - with its porticos and columns, which are whiter than the rest of the stone - has a very strong presence.

My first reaction as I wondered what to do was almost panic. Then the notion of the column lying emerged and I wondered if I could make an installation that referred to the birth of the column. I have placed one column lying down with its capital beside it, another standing, and a third with the capital in place. I hope that these three elements create an entity which also relates to the courtyard as a whole.

For me, making architecture means starting with what is there. Unless you are building in a desert, there are always lots of things to consider, sometimes too many. Here I am introducing a new element inspired by the sensation I had the first time I entered the courtyard.

From the courtyard, visitors climb the stairs to the beautiful octagonal room, and beyond it they move into the gallery where they find Souto de Moura’s installation. The sequence is more intense and richer because you cannot see both his and my installation at the same time. It requires visitors to activate their memories rather than just make visual comparisons.

  • Extract from the Sensing Spaces catalogue
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