Álvaro Siza: Drawn Closer
This text was originally published in Architecture through Drawing. Drawn Closer is a year-long collaboration between Domus and Drawing Matter, edited by Sarah Handelman. Each issue of the magazine features one architect discussing a drawing which they recognise as a transformative moment in their work. Domus 2020 is guest-edited by David Chipperfield.
I began using sketchbooks in 1977, and this is the first of them. I had been asked by the new communist mayor of Évora to plan a very large social housing development – Quinta da Malagueira – as an extension of the medieval city on an abandoned agricultural estate. Until that point all my work (it was not much work) had been in or around Porto. Évora was about a half-day from Porto by car – very far for us Portuguese.
I had to take notes because of the complexity of the project. We needed the participation of the neighbours, the plans, all the houses and programmes for the 1,200 families who would live there. Note-taking was necessary because, even then, I did not have a great memory. I bought this red school exercise book, filling its 70 pages in the first three days of the visit. I continued work on the project for over 20 years. As I arrived on the site for the first time I wrote on the flyleaf under the date ‘construir a nova E(vo)ra’ – to build a new Évora.
I have always worked using drawing. At the beginning of the 1950s, I had the opportunity to read a wonderful text by Alvar Aalto in which he speaks about his own work and how important drawing is for him. Sometimes this drawing was not specifically for a project but to re-examine the development of a project that had been blocked. This relationship between the hand and the mind is so important.