Alvaro Siza. Leça de Palmeira, Portugal.

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Architect: Alvaro Siza
Location: Leça de Palmeira, Portugal
Project Year: 1966

Alvaro Siza is a Portuguese architect who was born in a small coastal town by Porto on June 25, 1933. In 1955 he graduated from the University of Porto as Architecture major.  One of his first works he worked on was The Leça Swimming Pools, which are now considered among his greatest accomplishments. The pools were created in the 60’s in his hometown Porto, where most of his best known works are located. The saltwater pools were commissioned for the purpose of creating a safer environment for swimmers. The aggressiveness and hostility of the Atlantic Ocean created a dangerous current for swimmers. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiKff2ajPDk] The public pool complex has two pools, one for children and one for adults, changing rooms, and a café. The pools, located between the coast and an access road, and are disconnected from the city because of the way Siza sinked the building to keep the complex out of sight. In addition to his careful positioning of the pools, Siza conserved the existing rock formations while incorporating the project as an intervention. He created a modern intervention on the worn landscape that helps it blend with the ocean. The natural pools reach out and waves break constantly on the rocks. The rocks border both the ocean and the pools, and create a connection with the mixture of the bounded water and the ocean. The visitors access the pools through a concrete ramp.  The pure anticipating of the access through the ascending ramp reveals the hidden retreat slowly with every step. The senses first capture the sound of the ocean, which is the first sensory experience before fully ascending and seeing the pools. Through the carefully manipulated experience we begin to understand siza’s reconciliation of nature and design.  He created a functional yet aesthetically pleasing solution to the hostile ocean which after almost fifty years are still a favorite retreat for visitors.

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