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Architect fact files - Bristol | Oporto

Oporto architects

Old

Italian Nicolau Nasoni was born in 1691, studied in Sienna and Rome, and came to Oporto in 1725. He was an architect, sculptor, and painter and made his mark on the city of Oporto with his distinctive Baroque architecture. This style is notable for its colour and exuberance of forms, and the combination of gold and silver walls decorated with paintings and azulejos - the traditional painted illustrated tiles that are found all over Oporto - which create an atmosphere of unforgettable beauty.

Torr dos Clerigos
Torre dos Clérigos

Nasoni designed the Torre dos Clérigos, the famous 75m tall granite clock tower which was once the tallest tower in Portugal. It was built between 1732 - 73 by master mason Antonio Pereira and was financed by 'clérigos', or monks. Architects such as Nasoni and Pereira gave the city some of the most representative examples of the Baroque style, calling forth a complete transformation of the urban landscape in the 1700's. Throughout the 17th and 18th century the city resembled a 'workshop' of artists and craftsmen, who produced a significant collection of works of high aesthetic value. Nasoni's virtuosity is mostly shown in the art he used to work with granite, in buildings such as the Torre dos Clérigos, the façade of the Igreja de Misericordia and the Palacio do Freixo.

Nasoni also created the silver altar and wooden staircase in the Sé Cathedral, and some notable paintings that are displayed there. He died a relatively poor man in 1773, and was buried in an unmarked tomb in the Igreja dos Clérigos, which he also designed.

Modern

Alvaro Siza whose full name is Alvaro Joaquim de Meio Siza Vieira, was born in 1933, in the small coastal town of Matosinhos on the edge of Oporto. He studied architecture at the University of Oporto, and set up his own practice in 1954. He has worked on projects throughout Europe, and at home in Oporto. Siza's work varies from swimming pools to mass housing developments, houses for individuals, banks, office buildings, restaurants, art galleries, shops, and virtually every other kind of structure in between.

Museu Serralves
Museu Serralves: photo by Liz Milner

Siza has been very influential in the movement to create new, modern, urban buildings in Portugal. His modern style creates airy spaces that are calm, clean and functional. Like the early Modernists, his shapes, molded by light, have a deceptive simplicity about them; they solve design problems directly. If shade is needed, an overhanging plane is placed to provide it. If a view is desired, a window is made. Stairs, ramps and walls all appear to be foreordained in a Siza building. That simplicity, upon closer examination however, is revealed as great complexity. There is a subtle mastery underlying what appears to be natural creations.

Two of his most famous creations in Oporto are the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Museu Serralves, and the Architecture Department buildings of the University of Oporto, where he also taught and became a Professor in 1976. Outside of the city, he is famed for the Portuguese pavilion at the Expo '98 in Lisbon.

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