This is not an exhibition about João Luís Carrilho da Graça or his work, but its anthological character is inevitable. The show reveals a way of looking that has been present since the beginning of his professional and teaching activity. It is a way of looking that is illustrated from the city where he has worked for more than 30 years: Lisbon. This exhibit has previously been exhibited at the Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon, at the Leopoldo Rother Architecture Museum in Bogotá, and at the Museu da Casa Brasileira in São Paulo.
“Carrilho da Graça: Lisbon”
December 19, 2017 – Januay 30, 2018
COAM – Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid
Calle de Hortaleza, 63, Madrid
From the materials presented in this retrospective, the exhibition sheds light on what is a veritable theory of territory, expressed in a ground plan and model of Lisbon, and reiterated by the models of the individual projects. This theory holds that the construction of a city and its architecture is underpinned by the human routes and settlements that were there before, which in turn are determined by the main lines and points of the topography of the land.
In an article from 2002 (“Metamorphosis”), Carrilho da Graça explains how the routes most used by mankind in prehistoric times would have followed the highest points between valleys, the hinge lines of the geological folds. There were two reasons for this: ease of travelling (the level is more or less constant and they are not crossed by rivers or streams) and safety (these high points commanded an ample view over the dividing valleys). Promontories, for their part, are topographically defended by having a single access route which is easily controlled, offering broad views over the surrounding terrain. Hence, they have always hosted various kinds of establishment, ranging from camps and houses to convents, castles and the city itself.
At a later period, given the practical need to join the various promontories together, routes would have sprung up half way down the slope, uniting the secondary system of fold lines and duplicating the routes crossing the main hilltops. Later still, there would also have been others running along the valleys, parallel to or crossing rivers and streams, and connecting the key points mentioned above. All together, these extensive lines traced in the territory are at the origin of both public space (as they correspond precisely to the routes taken by people) and private space (as between them lay grounds that were successively privatized).
The city of Lisbon is an extraordinary example of this: the promontories coincide with unique buildings and the ridges with the earliest displacement routes, while the paths halfway up the slopes and in the valleys help construct a network of routes, tracing the first boundaries for territorial compartmentalization.
Using this analysis strategy, Carrilho da Graça sought to reveal a kind of constant or prior invariable “that receives our existence and is marked by it”. He imagines that “the territory possesses its own structure that constitutes the initial life support system for man on this planet” and that “on this territory, which also had other types of nature, such as its own wild nature, we gradually built, little by little”. For Carrilho da Graça, this method of investigating territory is not restricted to a passive or merely analytical perspective, understood as an end in itself. Above all, it forms part of a methodology for design and action, enabling a synthesis to be achieved of the existing landscape, distinguishing the elementary from the accessory, taking account of its historical thickness and denying the proclaimed incompatibility between research and practice.
The proposal that architectural design ultimately depends on territorial analysis underpins the whole Carrilho da Graça’s oeuvre, in what might best be described as a territorial vocation. The selection of works presented in this exhibition thus corresponds to a catalogue raisonné of the works of Carrilho da Graça for the city of Lisbon – not a complete and definitive compilation, but rather those projects considered by the author to be significant in this context. In addition to the many existing buildings, the exhibition also includes projects that were never actually built, as well as alternative versions of projects that were – with the same creative freedom that took over Palladio when he included his first villas, reviewed, in I quattro libri dell’architettura. Some of the projects shown have been widely published, such as the College of Media Studies (1987-1993) and the Lisbon Cruise Terminal (2010-…), but others have scarcely been disseminated till now, such as the plan created within the sphere of the VALIS Programme (1991) or various projects for contests which, despite having been classified in first place, have not actually been built, such as the Extension for the Assembly of the Republic (1992).
This exhibition does not present these projects in full detail, but rather offers the necessary clues for them to be observed in the light of this theory of territory, of this auxiliary construction which, more or less evident at the end, was always profoundly present at the origin of all and any intervention. This exhibition is concerned, ultimately, with João Luís Carrilho da Graça’s tradition, in the purest etymological sense of the term: with what it delivers and with the legacy it offers.
João Luís Carrilho da Graça (Portalegre, 1952) received a degree in architecture from the Lisbon School of Fine Art in 1977, the year when he began his professional activity.
He was nominated and/or selected for the Mies van der Rohe European Prize in Architecture (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 2009, 2011, 2013), and has received a number of awards. These include: the Secil Prize for Architecture (1994) awarded by the Lisbon School for Media Studies; the Valmor Prize (1998) and the FAD Prize (1999) by the Pavilion for the Knowledge of the Seas; the Valmor Prize (2008) by the Lisbon College of Music; the Piranesi Prix de Rome (2010) for the musealization of the archaeological area of the Praça Nova of the Castle of São Jorge; the Sacra Frate-Sole International Architecture Prize (2012) by the Church of Santo António in Portalegre; and the Ait Award 2012 – Transportation (2012) the Footbridge over the Carpinteira River. He has also won various awards for his entire oeuvre, such as: International Art Critics’ Award (1992), Order of Merit of the Portuguese Republic (1999), Pessoa Prize (2008), Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French Republic (2010), and the Medal of the Académie d’Architecture of France (2012).