Who's who in Sensing Spaces

Meet the architects

By Jay Merrick

Published 1 November 2013

Introducing the architects taking part in 'Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined'.

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    • Eduardo Souto De Moura

      Porto, Portugal

      Eduardo Souto de Moura (born 1952 in Porto, Portugal) sees architecture as a continuing story that builds on the past. Nevertheless, his buildings – including houses, office blocks, art galleries and a football stadium – have a striking visual impact, often making dramatic use of geometric shapes or sweeping curves. While these are visually powerful works, they are also human in scale and rewarding in use.

      While studying he worked with Álvaro Siza before setting up his own practice in Porto in 1980. The minimalist approaches of sculptor Donald Judd and architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe have been major influences on his work. He aims for purity of form and space combined with free circulation, so his buildings are transformed by the people moving through them. He identifies landscape with Portuguese culture and seeks not to alter it but to emphasise its character. Souto de Moura was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2011 and in 2013 he received the Wolf Prize in Arts.

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      Architect Eduardo Souto de Moura.

      Photo © Leonel de Castro.

    • Pezo von Ellrichshausen

      Based in Concepción, Chile

      Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen describe their Chilean architectural practice as an ‘art and architecture studio’. The precedence of art in that description is provocative, but not unexpected given their ideas about architecture. In particular, they are not seduced by the currently prevailing idea of designing modern buildings that defer to their context. So their Poli House is a concrete block perched high above the coastline in Chile’s Coliumo peninsula, alone in a vast natural landscape.

      They are also interested in triggering unexpected relationships with existing buildings or the spaces around them. The search to articulate these tensions is evident in their domestic architecture, and particularly in the way they compose interiors. Gago House in San Pedro, Chile, is rectilinear and has asymmetrically positioned windows – some flush with the façade, others deeply punched. The house stands next to a large, old-fashioned, heavily gabled villa. Fosc House (2009), also in San Pedro, is even more startling, with an angular plan and stained-concrete facçades. However, ‘the emphasis is on the proportion of the rooms, their sequence, the way they open – simple things, but which taken together suggest something more complex,’ says Pezo.

      ‘For us, beauty resides in the simple and the unpretentious’, says Von Ellrichshausen. ‘We like the idea that there are essential ways of understanding spatial relationships, a universal language, and so we have been investigating spatial structures in a primitive sense. We don’t ever start with a “design”, because we don’t design. We think not of details but of the structure and bones of the piece, the elements that will survive the process.’

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      Architects Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen.

      Photography: Ana Crovetto / © Pezo von Ellrichshausen..

    • Kengo Kuma

      Based in Tokyo, China with another office in Paris, France

      Kengo Kuma (born 1954 in Kanagawa, Japan) is interested in a concept he calls ‘weak architecture’, developed in part as a reaction to the devastating Kobe earthquake of 1995. This sees architecture as subservient to nature and influences everything from siting buildings and framing the environment to materials and construction methods.

      Kuma studied architecture at the University of Tokyo before moving to New York where he was visiting researcher at Columbia University in 1985/86. In 1987 he founded Spatial Design Studio and in 1990 Kengo Kuma & Associates in Tokyo; a Paris office was opened in 2008.

      Kuma’s international reputation rests on a portfolio covering many building types – houses, city halls, sports centres, museums and experimental installations – characterised by harmonious, understated spaces that achieve a lot with great economy of means. Integral to his thinking is the lived experience of buildings and the Japanese concept of ‘Ma’ (the void, gap or pause) which influences the relationships between space and time, sequence and progression. Using a limited range of often natural materials in each project, he also experiments with new technologies in construction.

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      Architect Kengo Kuma.

      Photo © The Courier.

    • Grafton Architects

      Based in Dublin, Ireland

      Grafton Architects was set up in 1978 by Yvonne Farrell (born 1951 in Tullamore, Ireland) and Shelley McNamara (born 1952 in Lisdoonvama, Ireland). The practice takes its name from the Dublin street in which it is located.

      Often drawing geological analogies to their work, Farrell and McNamara talk about architecture as a ‘new geography’, seeing buildings not as isolated objects but as part of a wider network that encompasses the physical, social and cultural landscape. The aesthetic and structural qualities of materials are a central concern and Grafton Architects are skilful in their use of brick and concrete, playing with surface, weight and texture and manipulating light and shadow to convey a sense of gravity or lightness.

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      Architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara, Grafton Architects..

      Photo © Alice Clancy..

    • Álvaro Siza

      Based in Porto, Portugal

      The work of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Álvaro Siza (born 1933 in Matosinhos, Portugal) is characterised by simplicity and restraint. His architecture treads a delicate line between tradition and modernity, combining craftsmanship with the techniques and materials of the machine age.

      Context is all-important to Siza and he sets up a dialogue between what he creates and its surroundings, often highlighting the tension between the two. His architecture frames views and captures moments of everyday life using simple forms and bold structures that create coherent spaces.

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      Architect Álvaro Siza.

      Photo © Chiara Porcu.

    • Li Xiaodong

      Based in Beijing, China

      Focused on small, often self-initiated projects, Li Xiaodong (born 1963 in Beijing, China) is interested in developing an appropriate ‘Chinese architecture’ that brings together traditional and contemporary modes of expression, technical knowledge and artistic judgement.

      His architecture combines a spiritual exploration of ideas with rational thinking and is based on a continuing enquiry into the underlying concepts of space in the Chinese context first explored in his book Chinese Conception of Space (1991).

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      Architect Li Xiaodong, inside the Liyuan Library.

      Photo © Kate Goodwin.

    • Diébédo Francis Kéré

      Based in Berlin, Germany

      Diébédo Francis Kéré (born 1965 in Gando, Burkina Faso) bridges the worlds of Africa and Europe, promoting a sustainable architecture that uses local materials, labour and building methods enhanced and modified by modern technology. His role as an architect often extends to that of social catalyst, fundraiser and builder, and his work places the community at the heart of design, construction and use.

      Kéré studied in Germany and while still a student won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the Gando Primary School (2001). In 1998 he set up the Schulbausteine für Gando, a charity that raises money to improve life for the people of his home village, and he established a Berlin-based practice, Kéré Architecture, in 2005. He has built a number of schools and community buildings in Burkina Faso and across Western Africa. Currently on site in Burkina Faso is the Opera Village, a large and unlikely project initiated by the late German artist and film director Christoph Schlingensief.

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      Architect Diébédo Francis Kéré.

      Photo © David Heerde.

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