During the past three decades, Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura has produced a body of work that is of our time but also carries echoes of architectural traditions. His oeuvre is convincing proof of modern idiom’s expressive potential and adaptability to distinct local situations. Always mindful of context, understood in the broadest sense, and grounded in place, time, and function, Souto de Moura’s architecture reinforces a sense of history while expanding the range of contemporary expression.
Already in his first works, undertaken in the 1980s, Souto de Moura had a consistent approach that never adopted the trends of the moment. At that time, he was intensely out of fashion, having developed his individual path during the height of postmodernism. As we look back today, the early buildings may seem normal, but we must remember how brave they really were back then.
The versatility of his practice is evident in the variety of commissions he has undertaken with success. He is capable of designing from domestic to urban scale. Many of his early works in the 1980s were single-family houses and remain among his seminal works. However, the scope of his work has expanded: the Braga Municipal Stadium, Portugal, designed in 2000 is muscular, monumental and very much at home within its powerful landscape; the Burgo Tower, Portugal, designed at the beginning of the 1990s and built a decade later, consists of two buildings side by side, one vertical and one horizontal with different scales, in dialogue with each other and the urban landscape; the Paula Rêgo Museum, completed in 2008, a grouping of volumes interspersed in the trees at its site in Cascais, Portugal, is both civic and intimate, and so appropriate for the display of art.
In their apparent formal simplicity, Souto de Moura’s buildings weave together complex references to the characteristics of the region, landscape, site, and wider architectural history. Often simple geometries are underlined through interplay of solid and void or light and shadow. The restoration and adaptation of the Santa Maria Do Bouro Monastery into a hotel has taken a building from ruble to reinterpretation. Souto de Moura has created spaces that are both consistent with their history and modern in conception. The effectiveness of his works usually stems from the juxtaposition of elements and concepts. His unique capacity to embrace reality while employing abstraction creates an architectural language that transforms physicality into the metaphysical.