Lissabon. Portugal. The Form of the Form is the title of this years Lisbon Architecture Triennale. In our interview the curator André Tavares explains the history of the Triennale, the importance of architecture to the world and why he likes the Graça terrace close to the Triennale headquarters.
"The most evident side of architecture is its visual output, thus the title ‘The Form of Form.’ Nonetheless, we know and we want everyone to have no doubt, that every form encompasses a myriad of matters that concern every aspect of our lives, from environment to labour."
André Tavares, architect and curator
1. Please describe the history and concept of the Lisbon Triennale.
The Triennale was founded in 2007 to welcome in Lisbon a lively discussion and exchange on contemporary architecture. Through its several editions the event has evolved, focusing on housing in the 2010 edition – "Let’s Talk About Houses" – curated by Delfim Sardo – and on the growing expansion of the architectural field in its 2013 edition – "Close, Closer" – curated by Béatrice Galillé. Being a moment of disciplinary exchange and debate amongst practitioners, from its inception the Triennale has gained a big deal of attention by wider audiences. Hence, its role of bridging the ongoing interests of architects with the curiosity and expectations citizens have regarding the ways architecture can affect their lives.
2. What is this year's focus of the event and what is the explanation for the title "The Form of the Form"?
The focus is architecture! In the past years a new generation of architects has been developing and moving forward to foster the quality of architectural design with powerful ideas and instruments. Despite this trend, architecture is being cornered by other fields of activity, from finance to fire regulations. As a result of the pervasiveness of these specialized fields our environment is increasingly designed by lawyers rather than by citizens. Our goal is to bring together an array of bright young architecture professionals and foster conversations that enhance their potential to bring back architecture as a main field of knowledge. We want to state that architecture is able to conduct our environmental design and synthetize the requests of more specialized fields of knowledge. The most evident side of architecture is its visual output, thus the title "The Form of Form." Nonetheless, we know and we want everyone to have no doubt, that every form encompasses a myriad of matters that concern every aspect of our lives, from environment to labour.
3. Please describe the developments of architecture in Lisbon and the country in the past years in terms of innovation, charisma etc.
Portuguese architecture has reached an incredible status and output with figures as relevant as Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura. This immense quality has fostered a generation of talented professionals recognized throughout the world. Sadly, the European austerity policies have given a huge blow and made strong damages on many aspects of Portuguese society, and the lack of construction has forced too many young and bright minds to emigrate. Those who stayed in Portugal strive to preserve a unique architectural knowledge, but how to preserve knowledge without practice? This brings us to the paradox of the blossoming tourism in Lisbon and Porto, an escape economy found recently and that meant a possible outcome for many architects. So far, tourism is representing a survival strategy, and is allowing the preservation (and often the destruction) of city centres. But is Portugal and Portuguese architecture to be solely the vacation resort for rich European countries?
4. As an architect with your own practise: what is your approach to architecture in general? Please pick 2-3 projects that shows your philosophy.
The Malagueira housing project Álvaro Siza developed from the mid-70s until the late 90s might be the most accurate example of my own architectural interests. It is a gigantic humble and coherent area that expanded the urban qualities of Évora. Its formal qualities resonate with a cultural perception of local construction as well as dialogue with the abstract quality of modern legacy. Its construction is as simple as required to match the absurdly tight budgets of state supported housing but stands for a quality and a charisma matching the highest cultural standards. The intelligence of its design brings together the rationale of mathematics and the playfulness of kids' toys. Another design that always stroke me are Palladio's villas. Their systematic combination of elements generates the most intriguing perspectives over the Véneto landscape. They form the landscape while they allow us to discover it differently. They subdue their aristocratic history to become unique architectural experiences, somewhere between a religious space and the most vulgar house. Diogo wrote a book on San Cataldo cemetery, by Aldo Rossi, Melancholy and Architecture. It is a powerful reading about the success and failures of architecture.
5. Where is your favourite spot in Lisbon and why? Your favourite location abroad?
I love the Graça terrace, two steps away from the Triennale headquarters. The coldness of its beer matches the warmest sunsets, the view of the urban fabric in dialogue with the prevailing geography, exposing the never-ending narratives of lives within the city. I still have to discover my favourite location abroad.