Located in the Serralves Park, the Museum is in direct dialogue with the Serralves Villa and the surrounding gardens. In the place of a monumental façade, the architecture of the museum is defined by a harmonious articulation between different architectonic elements in relation with the gently sloping terrain where it is sited.
The building is erected in a longitudinal manner from North to South, with a central body divided into two wings, separated by a patio to create a U-shaped structure. An L-shaped construction creates a second patio that connects with the main building and serves as the main access to the Museum, with connection to the underground car park and gardens.
The Museum has 14 exhibition galleries distributed over three floors. The upper floor is the location of the restaurant, Education studio, and Multipurpose room. A terrace leading from the restaurant provides expansive views of the Serralves Park. The entrance floor provides access to the exhibition galleries and bookshop. The lower floor houses galleries, the Library, the Auditorium and a cafeteria. Access to these spaces from the Museum entrance is facilitated via a square-shaped atrium located next to the reception, complemented by a cloakroom and information area.
The fluid disposition of the spaces of the Museum offers the visitor multiple itineraries and points of view suited to the changing programme of exhibitions and related activities. Characteristic of the architecture is the succession of long perspectives through the building and to the exterior in the form of visual ‘escape routes’ to the gardens. In the interior natural and artificial lighting are combined.
The structure of the building is in concrete and steel, with an exterior covering of granite and painted plaster. Locally sourced materials are used for the building’s roof covering. Inside the building, the floor is in oak and marble, walls and ceilings are constructed of painted and gypsum plaster. Ceilings heights range from 2.88 to 9.50 metres (average 6.20 metres).
Álvaro Joaquim Melo Siza Vieira was born in Matosinhos in 1933. After an initial interest in the field of painting and sculpture, he finally chose to study Architecture in the Oporto School of Fine Arts (ESBAP) between 1949 and 1955. He produced his first work in 1954. He worked with Prof. Fernando Távora between 1955 and 1958 and taught in the ESBAP in the 1960s and 1970s. He has served as Visiting Professer in various international educational institutions and lectured in the Faculty of Architecture in Oporto. He was Visiting Professor at the Polytechnic School in Lausanne, the University of Pennsylvania, the School of Los Andes in Bogotá and the Graduate School of Design of Harvard University as "Kenzo Tange Visiting Professor".
Álvaro Siza’s work may be admired in a wide array of areas, including social housing, private residences, residential complexes, cultural and social facilities, public art and urban renewal projects. He produced the housing projects in the parish of Malagueira, in Évora (1977), the Casa Avelino Duarte, in Ovar (1981-85), the Setúbal Higher Education School (1986-1992), the Faculty of Architecture of Oporto (1986-93) and the Library of the University of Aveiro (1988). From 1985 onwards, he coordinated the Recovery Plan of Zone 5 of Schilderswijk, in the Hague, Holland, and concluded the project for blocks 6-7-8 of Ceramique Terrein, in Maastricht.
His range of important works in Portugal, include the Serralves Museum, a Parish Centre in Marco de Canavezes and the Portuguese Pavilions for EXPO'98 and Hannover 2000. In Spain he has produced projects for the Weather Centre of the Olympic Village in Barcelona, the Galician Museum of Contemporary Art and the Faculty of Information Sciences in Santiago de Compostela, and the Rectory of the University of Alicante. His principal urban projects include the urban plan for Macao (1983-84), the recovery plan of Zone 5 of Schilderswijk, in the Hague (1985), gthe urban renewal project of Giudecca, in Venice (1985) and the urban plan for the Praça de Espanha, in Lisbon (1989). He continues to be involved in coordination of reconstruction of the Chiado zone, in Lisbon.
In the 1970s, he exhibited his work in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Barcelona, the Venice Biennale and in Milan. In the following decade he presented his works in locations such as the Helsinki Architecture Museum and the Alvar Aalto Museum in Jyvaeskyla, Finland, the Centre Georges Pompidou, in Paris, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, in London, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, USA, amongst others..
In the 1970s, he exhibited his work in cities such as Seville, Antwerp, Tokyo, São Paulo, Madrid and institutions such as the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art in Santiago de Compostela, the Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon, the Fondation pour l'Architecture in Brussels, amongst others. Since the year 2000 he has exhibited works and projects in leading institutions and spaces in Barcelona, Tokyo, Porto, Yokohama Bremen and Saint-Étienne.
Álvaro Siza participated in the public tenders for Expo 92 in Seville (1986), "Un Progetto per Siena" (1988), for the Cultural Centre of La Defensa in Madrid (1988/89) (which he won) and also for the Bibliothèque de France in Paris (1989/90), Museum of Helsinki (1993) the Islamic Centre in Lisbon (1994). He was classified in first place in the public tender for Schlesisches Tor, Kreuzberg, Berlin, for recovery of the Campo di Marte, Venice (1985) and remodelling of the Casino and Café Winkler, Salzburg (1986).
He has been awarded various prizes and decorations, including those granted by the Association of Portuguese Artists, the Higher Council of the College of Architects in Madrid, Harvard University, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, in New York and the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid. He also received the Gold Medal from the Alvar Aalto Foundation, in 1988 the European Architecture Prize from the Commission of European Communities/Mies van der Rohe Foundation. In 1992 he was awarded the important Pritzker Prize from the Hyatt Foundation in Chicago for his works as a whole and in 2002 he received the Golden Lion in the Venice Biennale;
He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science and "Honorary Fellow" of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the AIA/American Institute of Architects, the Académie d'Architecture in France and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.
He has been granted a "Honoris Causa" Doctorate from the Polytechnic University in Valencia (1992), the Federal Polytechnic School in Lausanne (1993), the University of Palermo (1995), the Menendez Pelayo University, Santander (1995), the National University of Engineering in Lima, Peru (1995), the University of Coimbra (1997), the Universidade Lusíada (1999) the Federal University of Paraíba, João Pessoa, Brasil (2000); the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Polo delle Scienze e delle Tecnologie, Naples, Italy (2004).
Link to sites on the museum’s architecture
Links to sites on the architect and his work
Building: 12,669.80 m2
Exhibition galleries: 4,484.9 m2
Auditorium: 600 m2
Library: 352.80 m2
Public space: 564.80 m2
Museum Shop: 146.9 m2
Restaurant: 222.90 m2
Multipurpose room: 103.20 m2
Education Studio: 233.60 m2
Offices: 537.40 m2
Services Area (closed to the public): 770.50 m2
Car Park: 3,309 m2