Espelho Álvaro

Mário Botta

Álvaro Siza (1933), Man with Mirror, c.1975. Biro on paper. Courtesy of the architect.

This mirror was among the objects, sketches and photographs at his great exhibition at Padiglione di Arte Contemporanea. Siza was in a corner of the hall with some friends. More than a thousand guests from the Milano-bene (well-to-do Milanese) had come for a vernissage with fur coats, television spotlights, beautiful women, men from fashion, culture and politics. And they all walked about, arguing and commenting.

Few, very few, were aware of the shy presence of Álvaro Siza.

Few, very few, noticed the presence of this mirror. The few who did, wondered whether that object was part of the exhibition or whether it had been left behind by somebody whilst the exhibition was being set up.

I asked Siza for one of these mirrors. I think that the idea and synthesis of his work is easy to find in this object. I see in this mirror a reflection of all his determination and firmness of purpose, evidence of his endeavour. In it we can find the humility and poetry of his architecture. I believe that it is possible, simple, easy and obvious to talk of Siza through this object.

A mirror is an object created for man. Siza takes a piece sloping glass, cuts it, holds it at an angle with a curved wire that becomes an element of support.

Everything is so simple and natural that it becomes marvellous.

Everything is indispensable.

Indispensable the sloping glass, indispensable the cut corner, indispensable the wire, indispensable the support and the intelligence of the support, indispensable the strength of the wire, indispensable the curve of the wire, indispensable finally, for man, the poetry of this synthesis.

We wonder for a moment what a similar object would be like were it designed by a fashion designer. I will leave it to your imagination…

This mirror designed by Siza is too synthetic and essential for the market.

It is an object that cannot be produced and sold, because it would be too cheap. To satisfy the market, it would be made from silver or gold, which would be the only possibility of holding out against consumerism.

It is an object of rare constructive knowledge.

I think that this is symbolic of the architecture of Álvaro Siza, sometimes so simple and essential that it may seem banal.

I believe, though, that it is simple and essential like the miracle of poetry.

Álvaro Siza (1933), Álvaro mirror, 1975. Photograph. Courtesy of the architect.
Álvaro Siza (1933), specification drawing. Courtesy of the architect.

November 1980