CULTURE

Architecture is not about fashion

«It’s not a matter of fashion. It’s a matter of need,» remarked leading Portuguese architect Edouardo Souto Moura about his work during an interview with Kathimerini in Athens. It preceded, by a few hours, a speech offered by the renowned figure at the Athens Concert Hall, or Megaron Mousikis, earlier this week. Moura spoke well, not pedantically, while explaining the reasons for his stylistic departure from orthodox modernism after many years of affiliation. He has returned to the use of windows, which does not necessarily mean that Moura has permanently abandoned the idea of large, unified openings for his designs. In many ways, there is a resemblance to a Greek in the 54-year-old architect, including his appearance, way of communicating, love of tobacco and his disgruntled protest about a homeland bogged down in eternal crisis. «Portugal has been a crossroads country for a long time. You can’t just think of the country alone. You also need to take into account Brazil, or the other former colonies,» said Moura. «Once again, we’re going to end up talking about regional and universal aspects, which, it seems, are a constant influence.» Moura, who designed the Stadio De Braga in Portugal, one of the stadiums used for the Euro 2004 soccer tournament, is a modernist. He admires the work of Mis Van Der Roe, a favorite aspect being the contrasts which Moura described as a source of inspiration. «Portugal is divided in two. The north is rainy and green, the south dry and hot,» said Moura, while sketching a rough map of Portugal with pencil and paper. From his Porto home’s balcony facing the Atlantic in Portugal’s north, Moura has a view of the world. He had originally designed the house for a client, but when he left, the architect and his wife moved in. No changes in design were needed, Moura said, because, when taking on projects, he adamantly sticks to his views. «I never give in to clients. That’s why no changes were needed for the home I now live in in Porto,» said Moura. «It feels strange to be living in one of your own creations,» he added, smiling with charming unease. Upcoming projects include small modern homes in Porto, all discretely laid out amid green gardens. Another project, already under way, entails the design of a crematorium in Belgium. «The scale of [my] work is growing,» said Moura, expressing both satisfaction and resentment. Both simple and complex as a character, Moura makes himself well understood, regardless of his subject matter’s level of difficulty. He does not keep hidden the depths of his thoughts, his philosophy on man and the surrounding environment. It seems incongruent that Moura, a man with a discreet outlook of the world and no intentions to conquer, ranks among the world’s elite in his field. Not that his work is not first class. But his approach is more a philosophical interpretation of practical needs than architecture delivered to impress. At present, Moura is set to complete projects in Lisbon which he considers to be intellectually challenging. «There’s a hybrid that combines a soccer ground, a car-park facility, offices and three pairs of homes built in different styles,» said Moura. Homes can look into themselves or out to the world. For Moura, of course, the contrasts resemble each other. «They are complementary, not opposites,» he contends convincingly.