Book Review

Places, Types, Archives and Records: Alvaro Siza and his Legacy

A critical review of ‘Neighbourhood: Where Álvaro meets Aldo’. Nuno Grande and Roberto Cremascoli, exhibition catalogue for the Portuguese Pavilion in the 2016 Architectural Biennale, published by Hatje Cantz (2016). Platon Issaias. The Journal of Architecture, volume 23, issue 7-8, 1316-1320.

Platon Issaias
Architecture, Criticism, Curatorial, Exhibition, Housing, Theory, Typology

Whether it’s an agricultural fair or an art biennale, every national participation in every international exhibition faces an almost impossible challenge, which is a result of a structural problem. The power relations that reside within and define geopolitical asymmetries produce a pattern where culture, politics and ideology suffer both from unconstrained nationalism and the desire to be ‘international’. The fetishisation of everything ‘local’, every ‘original’ place, artefact and product enters a predefined grid that organises it as part of an ‘international’, ‘global’ heritage and production of meaning and value. The very idea of the ‘local’ is not just the residue of colonial practices, it’s colonialism itself: a network of forces that violently produces types, standards, subjects and commodities.


There is something fascinating in Nuno Grande and Roberto Cremascoli’s curatorial project for the Portuguese Pavilion in the 2016 Architectural Biennale. Grande and Cremascoli decided to organise an exhibition about Alvaro Siza, but instead of just celebrating his legacy and persona, they aimed to push it towards a different direction.


The curators’ sincere effort to present alternative, less celebratory and inclusive narratives for the four neighborhoods fall into some well-known traps. There is a particular ideological bias that talks of some sort of ‘European-ess’, a remnant of a social-democratic, federalist European dream that even if it did, definitely doesn’t make sense anymore. ‘Fortress Europe’ of extreme securitisation, unapologetic nationalisms and far-right violence, has merged with inter-EU colonization of the sovereign debt crisis. A massive retreat in public spending has made the right to housing sound like an impossible political goal. In ‘Neighborhood: Where Alvaro meets Aldo’ there is a romantic belief that the character of the architect and good, or at least ‘better’, design is enough to sort it out. This is not true; without an uncompromising attack on the complex mechanisms that financialised and de-territorialise land and housing there is no hope. We need compulsory purchase of land, serious control of profit in real estate, the dismantling of oligopolies in the construction industry and the overall rethinking of standards, protocols, comfort, materials and the way we live together and we take care of each other. Alexander Alves Costa’s magnificent testimony on Bairro da Bouça and the SAAL (Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local) shows us the way to do it: neighborhood associations and collectives, citizen initiatives and political organization. As in revolutionary Portugal, we need radical political and design experimentation.

[link to article]


Fatura Collaborative – Research & Design Practice, was founded in 2009 and is developing projects across a wide range of scales, from intimate objects and performance, to architecture, urban design and planning. We are interested in architecture as social infrastructure, in developing collective equipments, in the design of spaces of care, empathy and welfare. We design and research expanding new problematics about ecology, the domestic, everyday life and the city.



is an architect and researcher based in London. She studied architecture in Patras, Greece, and currently is a PhD candidate at the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art in London. Her research focuses on the intersections between social movements and the state apparatus, and centers around the ad-hoc infrastructures created for welfare provision during periods of crisis. She has practiced architecture in the UK and worked in the housing, healthcare, and education sectors in collaboration with public authorities and established architectural practices. Prior to London, Elisavet gained experience as an architect in Athens and Madrid.


is an architect, researcher, and educator. He studied architecture in Thessaloniki, Greece, and holds an MSc from Columbia University and a PhD from TU Delft and The City as a Project research collective. He is the director of Projective Cities MPhil programme at the Architectural Association, where he is also teaching Diploma Unit 7 with Hamed Khosravi. Previously, he has taught at the Berlage Institute (Netherlands), in the MArch Urban Design programme at the Bartlett, the RCA, Syracuse University and the University of Cyprus. His research interests explore urban design and architecture in the relation to the politics of labour, economy, law and labour struggles. He has written and lectured extensively about Greek urbanisation and the politics of urban development.


is an architect and educator, and recently joined the Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art as Associate Curator. He earned his diploma of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens and an SMarchS degree from MIT. Since 2009, he has been practicing as a founding member of Fatura Collaborative, an architecture and research collective. His PhD dissertation, “Architectures of the Humanitarian Front” (Yale University), explores the nexus of humanitarian organizations and architecture and their relation to conflict, displacement and the provision of shelter.


is an architect based in Lund, Sweden. He graduated in 2010 from the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens and holds an MSc in Energy Efficient and Environmental Building Design from the School of Architecture of Lund University (2015). He has practiced architecture as a freelance architect in Greece and currently in Sweden (eg. Tengbom architects), where he works on a wide range of projects including small houses, larger residential complexes as well as care, educational and industrial facilities.


graduated in 2007 from the School of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. She holds the MSc in Advanced Architectural Design from GSAPP, Columbia University (2008). In June 2016, she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the Architectural Association. Her thesis dealt with the transition towards abstraction in art and architecture during the end of 19th and early 20th centuries, with an emphasis on interwar architectural modernism in Germany. Alexandra has been teaching at the AA since 2012, where she is currently a studio master in the First Year Studio of the Experimental Programme and a Programme Coordinator and Course tutor in the MArch Architecture & Urbanism (DRL) programme. She has practiced as an architect in New York and Athens.