“Reporting from the front”. This was the theme that, in 2016, curator Alejandro Aravena selected for the 15th International Architecture Exhibition (that took place between May and November), known as Venice Biennale/ La Biennale di Venezia.
The aim was to invite a reﬂection on the role that architects have in improving living conditions for people all over the world highlighting that architecture can, and should, contribute for the common good. The Portuguese participation in the Biennale was curated by architects Nuno Grande and Roberto Cremascoli, who invited journalist Cândida Pinto (from SIC portuguese television station) in order to flm a set of documentary flms on Álvaro Siza Veira’s (b.1933) social housing
projects. In 1992, he was awarded the Pritzker Prize, one of the highest international prizes in architecture, having since then, won many other acknowledgements. This session screens a set of four documentaries, where each tells the story of a project that Siza has designed in the 1980s.
Our tour guide is none other than Siza himself who, at 82 years old, revisited each location. 1) Bairro do Bouça, Porto, Portugal (1976-2006); 2) the building known as “Bonjour Tristesse” (who someone free-willingly wrote on the top-centre of the building), Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany (1983-1985); 3) social housing in Doedijnstraat, Zone 5 Rehabilitation Plan in Schilderswijk, Haia, The Netherlands (1985-1989); 4) Campo di Marte, Giudecca, Venice, Italy (1983-2016).
What happened to the structure? Who inhabits it? What will they say about the experience of inhabiting the building? In the four documentaries we become aware of the variety of people and cultures to which an architect designs and we see Siza interacting with the current dwellers. Was he successful in anticipating their needs? We observe that there’s one thing that all dwellers mention, in all four cities: the house has a lot of light.