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Àlvaro Siza - Winner of International Prize of Sacred Architecture 2000

Complesso parrocchiale di Marco de Canevezes - Porto

The "Frate Sole" is an International Award for Sacred Architecture and its year 2000 edition is the second since its establishment. It aims to promote the building of churches and to sensibilize public opinion with respect to them. For any such undertaking, implicity and purity of form are essential if we believe that a consecrated area must effect an authentically poetical transformation and that the space it creates must of necessity be the expression of an authentic spiritual experience.

For this second edition, the Projects were submitted and they have all been examined by the Scientific Committee. The Committee, in line with its objectives, has decided to confer the Award on the architect Alvaro Siza, specifically for the church which he built as part of the parish complex of Marco de Canevezes at Porto in Portugal.

The Committee wishes to emphasize that in the overall field of sacred architecture this particular work, in its search for a poetically significant spatiality, forms part of a coherent continuity.
The Committee has further appreciated the exceptional merit of a work capable of creating in plastic and poetical terms a spatiality whose sacrality is vibrant. It is an achievement which makes use of materials and forms that are minimal in their essentiality. Indeed, the materials chosen and their treatment may be considered exemplary.

With its external organisation the church fits perfectly into the pre-existing context; indeed it generates new spaces, carefully regulated and domestic in scale. These spaces are capable of achieving effects at once complex and dynamic, their inter-relations setting up marked tensions.
From an expressive point of view and in terms of the urban skyline, its emblematic and highly distinctive mass makes a strong statement in the landscape. What is more, the pure stereometry of its volumes endows the building with an abstract value immediately referable to the realm of the sacred.

The symmetrical recess of the main frontage - under the vault of the sky - is a prelude to the interior. It is deliberately elementary in character and is intended to prepare us for an inner space which, in its immediacy, invites natural and spontaneous participation. That this is a point of encounter is evident. The manipulation of light, with great windows high against the ceiling, is a source of abstraction, while, at eye-level, a long, narrow slit of a window involves the participants in a compelling sense of presence.

Three formal vibrations inform this internal space, a poetical combination of flat Euclidean surfaces structured like music. The two convex forms which rise on either side of the altar generate an energetic projection of the altar itself towards the assembly of the people, while the great north wall of the nave, which intrudes like a swelling sail, anagogically attenuates geometrical exactitude, conferring upon the whole complex an emotional coherence that is all-embracing.

Complesso parrocchiale di Marco de Canevezes - esterno Complesso parrocchiale di Marco de Canevezes - interno

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