Balance and Proportion
Alvaro Siza's Swimming Pools in Leça da Palmeira are more than just Swimming Pools. The set's composition emerges from the program's articulation and the site's constraints. The small distance between the avenue and the sea foresees an elongated building, following the strong score line of marginal wall. But little is seen from there.
The program aims towards a strict relation between body and architecture. It's an intimate contact, as if the architecture was an extension of the body. The proportions, the domesticity give us this idea of body trace, of an architecture for the Man.
The concrete building that blends with the rocks' colors mitigates the contrast between built and natural. Also its location, between the beach and the avenue's elevations, places the roof on our eyes' level, maintaining constant visual permeability between the avenue and the horizon, allowing a tender transition between the urban and natural, and making difficult the distinction between both. We see the main pool far ahead, in the middle of this rocky beach, and we easily mistake it with the sea.
The approach to the pool
The relationship with the pool is not immediate. There is a preparation and gradual approach that is given by the concrete walls that lead us through ramps and platforms in a downward path, passing by the bathhouses and beach until we finally reach the swimming pools. The project acquires a longitudinal extension where the notion of time is also distorted, that is: instead of heading to the pool in a short straight line from the marginal, we are driven towards the complex that leads us through an extended path.
As the lived space is different from the geometric space, the time spent is different from the real time and that is what gives us the experience. This increase in distance and, hence, increase in time also corresponds to a progressive isolation of the city, stirring and functioning as a noise filter in order for us to absorb this change of surroundings. Álvaro Siza draws a time to arrive.
The elementarity of the construction draws an analogy with the picturesque ideals of the nineteenth century, where the idea of the center in motion, of no direct arrival is considered. This architecture where the body is in constant motion is conceivable from subtracting cores of possible life. Meaning, there are no living spaces. The program itself, elongated design, and plans suggest movement. It is the design of the path that solves the whole project.
More than lead the visitor, this route interacts, it is dynamic, and it questions us. It is interesting to think that our body and mind need this, this push that encourages us to discover and to follow a certain path. As we move forward, the following reference confirms us the earlier and, consequently, motivates us to achieve the following.
After descending the access ramp, we see a small counter. Behind, two black wooden doors with a low right-foot [two meters] and a thick concrete roof [one meter]. This access area to the spas is dark; it seems to us a restricted area, forbidden maybe. Here the sense of limit is ensured although there is not a physical boundary that marks the entrance. There is no typical traditional Portuguese threshold or a similarity with Siza’s previous project Casa de Chá where there is a clear distinction between interior and exterior. Also, there is no typical door handle, nor jamb. There is instead a continuity between exterior and interior that is, in a way, barred by the screen that works here as a border. But this limit can also be perceived as the beginning of something new instead of a restraining element, the door that closes is precisely the one that can be opened.
Next to it, the area of access to the bar/lounge appears to us more inviting. Perhaps because employees leave the three-meter door open, urging us to make the entry there. As it is an uncovered space, this route, visibly outside, is exposed, illuminated, is public, and gives us confirmation that we can move in that direction. Both paths eventually lead us to the pool although we are quickly encouraged to make our entrance through this last than to go through the low, dark, and cold baths.
So we stop; we take the time we need to reflect our way. Then our adventure begins.
Other Architecture Posts
Here we look at every kind of architecture, often including steel and other metals of course, current and historical usually by famous and influential architects but sometimes by names that are surprisingly lesser known.
The conviction of Rafael de La-Hoz Arderius and Gerardo Olivares to build a minimalist sculpture of steel, glass and travertine on an urban scale.
Robin Fisher explores this building, located at the gateway of Los Angeles' famous Museum Row, extensively renovated through the work of Kohn Pedersen Fox and A.Zahner.
Richard Storer-Adam reviews the design and construction of this 64-story skyscraper, built in the 1970’s with Cor-Ten steel, symbolising the triumph of the US Steel industry.
Richard Storer-Adam reviews the background and architecture of this iconic modernist glass and bronze tower by German-American architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe and American associate architect Philip Cortelyou Johnson.
Antonio Moll reviews the first work by the Dutch Office in the USA, 16 years after its opening, considering what is probably the most disrupting piece of architecture of the 21st Century.
Richard Storer-Adam dwells on the genesis of NYC’s most iconic skyscraper and ‘quintessential symbol’ of Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA named after the Flatiron district.
Other Design Posts
How our use of metals and finishing processes features in design today and since prehistoric times.
Considered the second most influential car of the 20th Century just after the Ford Model T the Mini is a British Pop-culture icon.
Richard Storer-Adam recounts the work of this influential industrial designer, famous for his work with Walt Disney Studios, through two of his favourite products created in the style of Streamline Moderne.
Richard Storer-Adam gives a brief history of two essential modern-day products - hypodermic needles and steel pipes - and the manufacturing technique that connects them.
Richard Storer-Adam gives a brief tutorial on Rose and Rose Gold watches, watch straps, lugs and integrated wrist bands including the Rolex Glidelock system in 904L stainless steel.
An appreciative and honest critique of this dramatic architectural work - Lola Adeokun shares her experiences and feelings whilst visiting Niemeyer’s museum of art in Rio de Janeiro.
Richard Storer-Adam gives an overview of the life of an iconic mid-century designer whose background as a blacksmith and empathy with metal fabrication played out in his work ranging from furniture, such as the famous Standard SP chair, to pre-fabricated buildings.