Siza at sixteen

By Manuel Montenegro and Álvaro Siza

Álvaro Siza (1933), study of Rodin’s ‘Weeping Burgher’, 1949. Pencil on paper. Courtesy of the architect. In the Summer of 1949, Siza was preparing for the admission exam in the Beaux-Arts School, where Architecture was taught. Admission to study Fine Arts Admission, at that time, was gained by a test of the drawing of a statue – he ultimately drew a statue of a ‘timid young Augustus’.

Pouco a pouco, quase sem dar por isso, o carvão começou a não partir, o papel a não manchar, o miolo de pão a manter a plasticidade, o fôlego a aumentar. E a confiança.

Slowly but steadily, unwittingly, the lead began to not break, paper to not stain, the bread crumb* to maintain plasticity, our stamina increasing. And our self-reliance.

– Álvaro Siza describing a collective learning experience in the drawing atelier of Isolino Vaz in the summer of 1949. Sketchbook 311: Holanda 2 – Jardins Paris – Fonte Taipa, August 1990. (CCA)

*‘Miolo de pão’ translates as ‘Bread Crumb’, as in the inside of a loaf of bread that you get when you remove the crust… which was (and is) used as an eraser for charcoal or graphite. I believe Crumb is the exact word, but because it is not so common-use, you can find ‘crust-less bread’ as a replacement in many texts… – Manuel Montenegro