Photograph of Bonjour Tristesse by Giovanni Chiaramonte, 1984. Architect: Álvaro Siza. Neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, Berlin. © Giovanni Chiaramonte.
Wohnhaus Schlesisches Tor—also known as Bonjour Tristesse—in Berlin and Punt en Komma in The Hague are Siza’s first built works outside his native Portugal. The two projects resemble one another in size, scale, program and ambition: both were built in the 1980s, both are results of a distinct attitude towards the city, and both were social housing projects developed to accommodate immigrant communities through participatory design processes. Yet they are also remarkably different. They present local solutions to global questions about the reconstruction and densification of urban centres, reflecting and reviving the specific character of their respective locations, Berlin’s Kreuzberg and the Schilderswijk in The Hague.
Siza was invited to take part at Berlin’s International Building Exhibition (IBA) and a similar urban reconstruction project in The Hague as a result of his involvement in the participatory housing projects of the SAAL program in Portugal during the 1970s. The two commissions became an opportunity to advance his research into the architectural forms and expression of the collective memory of the city. Siza’s sensitivity to context and ways of living resulted in subtle architectural interventions in the urban fabric that mediated charged political and social climates. His facades and plans reinterpret the morphology and typologies of each city, such as the Haagse Portiek and the Berliner Zimmer. In turn, Siza’s architecture has a truly urban character; the projects reveal themselves through the city, and the city reveals itself through the design of each building.
In juxtaposing the two projects, the exhibition points to fundamental attributes and interests of Siza’s work—engagement and estrangement, the universal and the vernacular, the specificity of the generic and the monumentality of the ordinary, the “globally local.” Both Bonjour Tristesse and Punt en Komma became internationally influential examples of a new approach that reconsidered the issue of housing on the level of the neighbourhood and in relation to the historic city. Together, they present possible models of an urban architecture at a time when the character of the twenty-first century city is yet again undergoing major transformation.
Corner, Block, Neighbourhood, Cities presents maps, drawings and sketches of Bonjour Tristesse and Punt en Komma, as well as photographs of the two projects by Giovanni Chiaramonte, Alessandra Chemollo and Peter de Ruig. In addition to two large-scale models, documentary photographs and interviews contextualize the projects in their urban, social and political settings. The work by Siza included in the exhibition offers a first glance into his architectural archive, a large part of which he donated to the CCA in 2014 as part of a wider cooperation agreement with Fundação de Serralves in Porto and the Fundação Gulbenkian in Lisbon.
A vernissage will be held immediately following a lecture by Siza on 24 September.