Between Populism and Dogma: Álvaro Siza’s Third Way

Nelson Mota


In the early 1980s, Kenneth Frampton presented critical regionalism as an umbrella concept to frame some peripheral architectural practices that became instrumental to illustrate an alternative approach both to the modernist dogma and to post-modernist reactions. The architecture of Álvaro Siza was one of those marginal practices frequently used to illustrate that alternative position.

In this paper I will bring together critical regionalism and its critique to explore the possibility of its role as a mediator between dogmatic applications of the modern canon and populism. Critical regionalism will be discussed within the broader frame of the redefinition of hegemonic relationships, especially postcolonial critique, and the relation centre-periphery. Using Siza’s project for the Malagueira neighbourhood in Évora (Portugal) as support, I will argue that the architect’s approach created a third way between populism and avant-garde, and represents a re-foundation of the avant-garde, where the gap between high culture and the everyday is shortened, through the use of a mediation strategy supported by the architectural project.

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