Siza Gowan
Housing and the City

Alvaro Siza, SAAL Bouca, plan, B-SAAL-61 – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), SAAL Bouca Housing, Porto, plan, c. 1978. Dyeline print. Scale: 1:500.

James Gowan, Trafalgar Road Housing, Greenwich, plan, 31 October 1963, DM 2785.3.1 – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), Trafalgar Road Housing, Greenwich, plan, 31 October 1963. Pen, ink, pencil and grey wash on paper.

In his scheme for the SAAL Bouça housing in Porto, first imagined on the cusp of the Portuguese Revolution in 1974, Álvaro Siza reflects the existing pattern of working class housing in the city. The plan couldn’t look more simply composed. Long terraces mimic and extend the existing urban grain. They create thin rectangular courts between them, and at the end communal facilities – a meeting room, a library, a laundry - provide for the residents. Architectural elements such as external staircases, open balconies and interconnecting windows express and enhance social interaction. James Gowan’s plan for Trafalgar Road housing in Greenwich, made 15 years earlier, is very different. He creates a new kind of urban pattern within London's heterogenous morphology with his castle-like scheme that provides protection and privacy for its residents. Surrounded on four sides by crenellated blocks, a central courtyard is balanced by private gardens and balconies. Despite their differences, both complexes are amenable to playing children. Such a comparison of Siza Gowan: Housing and the City was celebrated in an exhibition at the Architectural Association in spring 2017, and a subsequent publication in summer 2018.

– Helen Thomas


For the eponymous publication;  on the Siza Gowan exhibition; to download iBooks of sketchbooks by James Gowan and Álvaro Siza;  for a video on Siza's Seven Early Sketchbooks, which includes commentary on Bouça.