As a response to the 15th International Architecture Exhibition’s challenging theme, Portugal presents a “site-specific” pavilion, occupying an urban front in physical and social regeneration on the island of Giudecca: Campo di Marte. In actual fact, the installation of the pavilion on-site triggered the completion of Campo di Marte’s urban project designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza thirty years ago.
The pavilion exhibits four notable works by Siza, in the field of Social Housing - Campo di Marte (Venice); Schilderswijk (The Hague); Schlesisches Tor (Berlin); and Bairro da Bouça (Porto) - exposing his participatory experience as a peculiar understanding of the European city and citizenship. These projects have created true places of "neighbourhood", an important subject of the current European political agenda, towards a more tolerant and multicultural society.
Siza developed those concepts in contact with the Italian architectural culture, particularly with the conceptual legacy of Aldo Rossi, whose important essay The Architecture of the City was published exactly fifty years ago. In fact, Siza’s plan for Giudecca integrates one of Rossi’s last projects. The exhibition unveils the common ground between Alvaro and Aldo, two names which may well represent, metaphorically, all the citizens whose paths cross every day in every corner of those neighbourhoods. Finally, and after “squatting” in Siza’s building site, the Portuguese Pavilion will give place to a real habitat in the community of the Giudecca.
In 2016, a few months before the opening of the Venice Biennale, Álvaro Siza returned to all the four neighbourhoods presented in this exhibition. In Venice, The Hague, Berlin and Porto, Siza visited and met several residents, old and new neighbours, realizing their habitat’s evolution, but also the major social and urban changes which took place in there, nowadays shared by many other European cities: processes like immigration, ghettoization, gentrification and touristification.
Those visits and those neighbours are now depicted in photos and videos, presented on the outside and inside of the Portuguese Pavilion respectively. These are real everyday life documents, only possible due to the residents’ goodwill, to whom we thank the involvement. These visual documents were produced by a qualified multidisciplinary team, mostly with the support of the Media partners SIC/Expresso, to whom we acknowledge the commitment shown. Numerous other architectural documents were granted by the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), one of the main institutional partners, together with ATER Venice, IUAV, the Municipality of Venice Murano Borano, UNESCO Venice, Instituto Camões, and Ordem dos Arquitectos Portugueses, which were essential to this initiative. Our last recognition evidently goes to Álvaro Siza, notable architect, world citizen and now also a fellow neighbour of the welcoming island of Giudecca.