“Time is a great architect,” says Alvaro Siza. Time provides buildings with different lives, and these different lives seem to be incorporated into the buildings that possess them: even if we can’t perceive them one by one, we can somehow feel them. Masterpieces are architectures that are able to accommodate these different lives. The different lives of masterpieces are such in that we perceive them differently over time. Generally at first we perceive the general form of a building, its synthesized form. Then with time and habit we begin to perceive the secondary elements: we begin to paradoxically reconstruct the building as it is in reality. Time then always expresses itself in a dialectic between general form and particular form.
Then there is another aspect that particularly interests me about architecture, an aspect that I think characterizes what I personally consider masterpieces. For example, if we consider the pools at Leca da Palmeira by Siza, our perception varies over time while walking through the path that organizes the project. In the street, somewhat hidden, there is the entrance, then we pass between two walls parallel to it and a completely architectural and archetypal scenario unfolds: two parallel walls framing the sky. Then the building is revealed to us, but not only the building: from it we can finally perceive the sea. At the end of the path, when we have reached the cliff, the building magically disappears but the sea remains. So we have smoothly moved from the road, to the sky, to the view of the sea, to the absolute sea: the experience of this going from one situation to another is direct, clear and more than anything else ancestral. It is the experience of a masterpiece in that it happens without any emphasis, without any effort.
We recognize masterpieces because they always leave something “open.” Even if they are not particularly big, like Siza’s pools, they possess a breath that evokes the feeling of openness. This feeling doesn’t allow us to say the final word about them, because that is the true characteristic of masterpieces: their mystery. In the Museum of Art and Archaeology in Coa Valley, we have tried to produce precisely this feeling of openness: an openness to the surrounding landscape and to its ancestral history.
Camilo Rebelo was born in Porto. He studied at the German College and graduated from the Faculty of Architecture University of Porto in 1996. He collaborated with Eduardo Souto Moura and with Herzog & de Meuron. In 2000 he founded is Architectural Studio in Oporto and since then he has created about hundred projects. His area of research has mostly been concerned with the relationship between architecture and nature, linking artificial and natural within protected areas, classified landscape and the urgency of sustainability.