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k o n s t a n t i n o s papaoikonomou

This year our Unit decided to offer us an interesting different experiece. Visiting the home country of one of our tutors, Portugal, we had the oportunity to experience this new country through the eyes of a local, who shared his memories and experiences with us. Throughout the busy schedule of the trip, the brief and the architectural approach of our unit, [as well as overcoming last year’s unit’s direction through computer and advanced design...], I have found myself experiencing places-spaces that have as their central point and purpose, the human again...



The first think I noticed when the bus dropped us off in Lisbon, was a steep uphill - so steep, that there was a tramline the locals were using to ascend. However, we had to walk... A genuine topography of an old city resonating with modern, built on hilltops.. I think it deserves the title of the European counterpart of San Francisco.

Our first visit was at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Museum (1969), where as I was checking in my backpack, everyone else seemed to have disappeared, and it took me more than half an hour to find the rest of the unit. It is a “classic modern museum� incorporating the Portuguese identity and the site-specific respect, existence and use of ambient light, as well as the green spaces result in creating a park in the city. It causes you to forget where you really are.

The central lobby area extends in levels that connect through the underground all buildings of the complex. This happens with the use of a staircase, during the descend of which the main element is the unobstructed view to the green area outside through the large opening. This staircase, the materials used as well as the sculpture on the wall give a modern, luxurious feeling.

It is a concrete building, following the principles of modernism, where Portugal has a great history to show. What’s so special here is that despite its scale, there are elements that the museum is trying to hide or harmonize. The idea of hiding or making as little intervention to the surroundings as possible is implemented through the use of a staircase disappearing within the floor. The concrete frame, with its sculptural tension serving as decoration as long as structural element and is of great interest.



From the moment I arrived to Evora I was surprised with the rich context of the landscape. When we reached with the bus for the hotel, yet again... a steep uphill was our surprise! Walking towards our “panseon”, it all appeared to me as if I’d lived that before! A had a Déjà vu while I was exploring, I have seen all those somewhere before, everything felt familiar. I felt that I was in a greek mountainous village or on the acropolis of a Mediterranean island. It almost felt like home. The materials used, the alleys, the colors, the wounds in the front of the buildings, the roof tiles. The only difference was that in Evora, the consistency of the structured environment keeps continuity with the specific site and the sites that have already being built, creating a harmony of unique beauty.

During the first day of our trip, we were honored to visit the architectural office of JL Carilho da Graca. On the second day we had a walk around the roman aqueduct and the Malaguiere neighborhood, guided by Joao Gomes, who was informing us about the project, since he’s its landscape architect. After this guided tour, we visited Evora School of Architecture and sat in the lecture given for our unit by Joao Gomes. Malaguiere neighborhood of Joao Gomes da Silva and Alvaro Siza (1977 – 1991) in Evora completely expresses my point of view for the consistency and the continuity of the built environment in Portugal, since it directly relates to the roman aqueduct and its linear relationship as a limit extending to the walls of the old city. Using white cubical structures, Siza manipulates the landscape, its orientation and the sun path in order to create a pleasant residence complex, that imitates and connected to the roman aqueduct with the use of water tanks. The intervention is culminating at the place where this symbolic limit creates a local market for residents on the edge of the dwelling.

In a dialogue with the landscape and the connection with the roman aqueduct, glances and moments are created and the result is almost visual, giving to the place another quality by using just the perspective.









Harmonizing with the surroundings, the creation of an artificial pond, green spaces and recreational areas was something unique for Evora. The extremely delicate concrete construction, is almost like a structural sculpture and the orientation which appears from the inclination creates an amphitheatrical setting back to the view of the lake.









What amazed me the most in the buildings of the School was the moderate entanglement of old, modern and contemporary. The use of light at one side, and a canopy in the other side results in a more dramatic lighting and definitely declares the building’s presence when seen from the street. The canopy/passageway created at a lower level, with covered space and tiers in front of the labs is a covered space in which, in spite of the common rainfalls, the students can frequent and take a break without getting wet.

The library building was a pleasant surprise: Magnificent planning centered around the atrium over the open lecture theater in the library, creating double height for lighting from the ceiling, as well as a more secluded space for the computers at the next level, around the atrium, securing direct visual contact with the auditorium.



Our next visit was at a unique residence – the summerhouse of the architect Pedros Matos Gameiro, guided from himself. There is a direct statement, through the introvert nature of an inner atrium, while the landscape panorama is open and extraordinary.

The architect himself explained to us that he wished for a summerhouse where the family gets together to spend time with the grandmother, relax and bond. It is a residence with an abbey-like character with the element of surprise around every corner. Many moments seem to have been “directed� beforehand with the use of lights, shadows, and ground plan

moments where the light by itself can leave you speechless

Layering spaces characters, hyper

and qualities, contemporary

where cozy meets portuguese architecture


Mixing personalities, meets grandmother’s

mixing house...

Using the entrance pavilion, creating a journey, using wounds, the the architect has succeeded in creating these “directed” moments in a figurative character like a shadowed sculpture, thus enforcing

openings and atriums, – glimpses, resulting the spatial experience.









Unfortunately, our visit to Quinta do Evaristo House, by Ventura Trindade Arquitectos (2005) got canceled. Our next scheduled visit was the sister’s house of Joao Luis Carrilho da Graca (2010). Here the focal point of the synthesis is the view.

To is






this best


and thing


confront in


view, this


morning, house.

architect’s sister & owner of the house



When I first heard during the presentation briefing about the quarry, I almost immediately imagined myself standing at its deepest point, gazing at the sky. Unfortunately, the University security measures did only allow us access to a certain point with panoramic view, however the experience of this view itself is quasilunar. The scales of this living cubical creature that lies there, waiting to be discovered and mined in a few years. The layers constructed, combined with the scale and the size of this living monument of wealth and beauty result in views of parts of this marble with a sculpture-like mood. The outcome is the monument by itself exposed as a spatial sculpture.


Our next stop was the abandoned quarry (mining stopped when water was found) for the workshop of the following day. The landscape here was different: more natural, less tampered with. Color and texture were the protagonists. Reflections on water and the scars of time, like the impressive crack were the main elements.

It was as if the crack was the main exhibit, as a remuneration for the fact that we went so deep into the quarry.








When we had to leave the magical world of quarries, Joan (a friend of our tutors, who lives in Evora and teaches in the university there) suggested an unprecedented nature walk, leading to a glade with a panoramic view of quarries and cranes. The presence of an acropolis with monumental menhirs and a cross made of local marble led to a ritual mood, a sacred moment, religious devoutness and spirituality. Next day we had the workshop for the abandoned quarry. Good times with my group, we enjoyed work on it and we had nice talk at the end of the day.



Like in waiting, in devoutness and spirituality of the previous image, we visited the church – community center. A clearly modern, very successful, Mediterranean approach. One of the most unique spaces I was lucky enough to see. The use of the building in this urban area is double: A church, nursery, community center with an introvert character incorporating many uses, surprising you at every moment.










































Everything I experienced in Portugal when it comes to architecture as well as the whole built surroundings culminates in a phrase by Alvaro Siza – “Architects don’t invent anything, they transform reality”. Any Portuguese student in Evora will tell you that the most important element is the site itself. It points you to what you need to design. Not everything is suitable for every space, and if this simple principle becomes a standard practice, the resulting work is enough to show a loose continuity with the landscape and their relation. Next visit was Adega Mayor winery by Alvaro Siza. Getting at the winery, I was lost taking pictures and observing the nature in Alentejo, with the grapevines and the color shades: orange to yellow and green all the way to maroon. The contrast of these colors and the Portuguese skies and the deep blue, compose a painting of extraordinary beauty.

On top, a roof garden and the use of a planted loft and water in the shape of a pond, together with the background, trick you to believe that you’re in the same level as the vineyards of Alentejo. Water enforces this perception of being in a single storied building while in the roof garden.

The seems by

protruding to the

volume get colors

disappears lost of the

at in

this sky


level, and

its reality the

reflection painted clouds‌



Our next stop was the museum, Knowledge of the Seas Pavilion, by JL Carrilho da Graca (1998) in a newly built Lisbon neighborhood. Once more, the light and its use are the main event. The building develops around an atrium, which is borderline public and semi-public space. The entrance from a ramp around the atrium leads to a natural appreciation of the building’s structure, whereas the single curve in the whole design is visible only during ascension to the ramp, preparing you for what lies inside. Something interesting‌

For the end, the best moments of our journey – Portugal Pavillion by Alvaro Siza. Words cannot describe the feeling : awe striking views. An example of how architecture can create spaces, that in combination with the surroundings can lead to monumental architecture and city landmarks. Here the roof still looks delicate and flexible, like a stretched piece of fabric, in spite of its sturdy structure.



For the extra day we spent in Portugal due to the general strike, there was nothing planned. Since I wanted to find a specific café, we headed towards the neighborhood of Belem. A city part where rich history is combined with newly built and historic buildings together, castle – like buildings and galleries. There were two things that really marked my day there – the cafe i was looking for and a sculpture-building called, Padrao dos descobrimentos, a monument to the discoveries is place that celebrates the Portuguese who took part in the Age of Discovery from 15th-16th centuries. It is 52 meter high slab of concrete, carved into the shape of the prow of the ship.

The second thing was the café for which I was heading, where with the clever use of the structural I section beams, an ideal prefabricated café created that opens up to unobstructed views…






the outcome

For me, this trip to Portugal was more than a discovery of a new place. It was a unique field trip experience that offered me the chance to build strong relations with the rest of the unit while discovering Portugal’s magnificent architecture quality. During a couple of discussions with local students, architects and tutors I met, I realized that this striking environment of Portugal is a result of a concise architectural approach and respect to the Portuguese heritage and culture which responds to the site context either if it is next to the natural Alentejo or into the heart of the city, providing in that way a continuity in that context. In that point Alvaro Siza’s quote is simply and precisely explaining this idea; “Architects don’t invent anything, they just transform reality”. The existence and use of natural light combined melodiously with perspective views is very evident throughout most of the Portuguese constructions and serves as a decorative element that enhances and maximizes the spatial experience. For instance atriums are used in various seasons either as rain shelters for winter or “sun barriers” for summer. What I personally found intriguing in Siza’s, Graca’s and Pedro Matos Gameiro’s architecture is the use of tectonic elements in order to create moments, so as to say a certain view to the landscape, in the same way that a photograph captivates those moments including also surprise and the “perseverance” of each location. As a conclusion, what really marked my memory is the magical view of the quarries. Such an enormous scale… Such vivid textures…Such subtle and at the same time beautiful colors…A unique experience that reveals another view; that of a living organism being there to remind us, to remind humanity, to respect the natural environment….

Matthew Betts Plamena Momcheva Christopher Wejchert Huda Jaber Ben Pollock Guin Stephens


Buck Roshan Jayatissa Ara Ko Jennifer Macro Susanne Stavseng Hallam Tucker Helena Tunbridge Elizabeth Witney Zineb Benslimane Matthew Gibbs Ales Kacin Vagisha Kapur Konstantinos Papaoikonomou Tom Reynolds Ava Richardson Yoana Spasova Rena Tsangari Thomas Wildborne Grace Kee Weung Wong

I would like to thank you all for making this fieldtrip an amazing experience with architecture, fun, knowledge, work, great images and spaces, all well balanced and organised from our tutors

thanks Bruno + Christina


Konstantinos Papaoikonomou, Unit F Fieldtrip itenary photobook, Oxford Brookes University  
Konstantinos Papaoikonomou, Unit F Fieldtrip itenary photobook, Oxford Brookes University  

For me, this trip to Portugal was more than a discovery of a new place. It was a unique field trip experience that offered me the chance to...