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Documentation Centre/ Cycles

Álvaro Siza Vieira



Juan Domingo Santos

In a conversation with Álvaro Siza, he told me that as a child, his father rented a house in a valley with magnificent views to recover from a respiratory illness. He had to rest and only had medical authorisation to look out onto a terrace. At first, he was happy contemplating the valleys that he could see, but after a while, spotting the landscape became a routine act devoid of surprise that became increasingly tedious, so he decided to establish a game consisting of opening and closing part of the shutters, creating fragmented visions of the landscape with different views every day (1) .

In the movie “Rear Window” by Alfred Hitchcock, the protagonist, James Stewart, is a photographer immobilised in a wheelchair who, in order not to get bored, observes the world before him from the inside of his apartment framed by a window. A "voyeur" who contemplates fragments of life with the lens of his camera. The room and the window appear in the film as a unique and immense decoration, where architecture and life are seen through the eyes of the same character. Siza's attitude, like that of James Stewart, represents curiosity in its pure state and shows that partial and fragmentary visions can evoke a recognisable environment of emotions and sensations without having to resort to totality, imagination will do the rest (2) . Outside, on the exterior, an array of situations and various things, of stories where apparently nothing ever happens, become a small world that opens before us in a controlled exposure. Perhaps for Álvaro Siza, to build is to investigate this area of relationships with an introspective and personal look (3) . In our conversation, he talked about establishing a different order between things and history, and his attraction to a certain mystery in the relationships between the outside world and what we imagine of it (4). Nothing is small or big, everything contains a complex and sophisticated world at the same time, full of multiple connections that are simultaneously embodied in his work, achieving an impressive state of naturalness (5).
The journey of the camera at the beginning of "Rear Window" shows a sequence of spaces and activities strung together, starting with the fragment of a courtyard, followed by the movement of a dancer and that of a woman walking her dog, later entering a room through a window and flying over a broken camera arranged on the table, until it stops at the sweaty face of the protagonist. This unique journey of the camera provides enough information to suggest where we are, who the protagonist is and what is interesting in terms of the architectural scene. When the killer enters the room at the end of the film and says to James Stewart "What do you want from me?" He, without knowing what to answer and driven exclusively by curiosity and boredom, has to defend himself against the killer's attack with his photographer's instruments, throwing flashes and hitting him with his camera, using elements related to the character or to the places of action, because otherwise, as Hitchcock said, “I have the feeling that I'm squandering something if I don't use those things”, unnecessary waste that leads to construction with minimal energy, in continuity with the places and things that surround us (6 and 7).
Siza's works are always invitations to look from a window, to enter a place or leave it in a peculiar way, also, as Juhani Pallasmaa would say, to climb a ladder/stairs, lean against a wall or lie on the sofa to see the roof and certain elements that go unnoticed by the naked eye (8). A sequence of experiences and events where architecture opens up to dialogue with the landscape, with the history of places, with memory and also with the most insignificant things, aware of the “debilitating impossibility of ending it”.
The sculptor Cabrita Reis said “we are what we want to reach and that is called history”, a set of windows that we open every day to the show of life.


Juan Domingo Santos

(Granada, 1961) is an architect who graduated from the School of Architecture of Seville (1986), professor of architectural projects at the School of Architecture of Granada since 1994, visiting professor at the Technischen Universität München (Germany, 2010) and has been a visiting professor at various national and international schools of architecture.


Recurso CD
Álvaro Siza
Orden en el Caos

The meaning of things

A conversation with Álvaro Siza, El Croquis 140, 2008
See magazine

Dificilísimo. Puerta Nueva de la Alhambra

Dir. Juan Sebastián Bollaín, 2015
Watch video

On the memory of the city and some notes on Picasso, in “Unas casas de Cádiz”

College of Architects of Cádiz, 2007
See book

Álvaro Siza / Juan Domingo. The Atrium of the Alhambra

ALH The Alhambra Magazine, Board of Trustees of the Alhambra and Generalife, 2013
Watch video