Aires Mateus Architectural Terrains: Five Investigations (Hardcover)
The acclaimed architectural geniuses of the Portuguese world, AIRES MATEUS, have been invited to participate in the Venice Architecture Biennale five times since 2010. This publication introduces the five breathtakingly poetic installations that they have contributed to the world's most renowned architectural event.
The Venice Architecture Biennale, one of the most acclaimed events in the world of architecture, is undoubtedly the most prominent of about twenty biennales and triennials devoted to the field worldwide. The international affair brings together leading practitioners from around the world to share knowledge and developments on questions of contemporary relevance. It is a particular distinguishment for the architectural practice AIRES MATEUS to have been invited to participate in this biennale five times.
Founded in the 1980s and led by the two brothers Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus, the practice has gained international recognition for its poetic reinterpretation of architectural traditions in Portugal. Their impact on the current architectural scene in the Portuguese world is unparalleled.
This publication, which introduces the five architectural installations contributed to the Venice Biennale by AIRES MATEUS over the past decade, consists of five individual parts. Each of the five books is dedicated to one installation in Venice. They are held together by a vertical slipcase, discretely and beautifully embossed. The breathtaking projects presented in this volume set an outstanding example of how architectural installations reflect space in a sensitive, poetic, and even mathematical way.
VOIDS: The first time AIRES MATEUS presented Portugal at the Venice Biennale was in 2010. The show was curated by Kazuyo Sejima from the Tokyo-based firm SANAA, the first woman ever to work as chief curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale. AIRES MATEUS' installation VOID was strikingly simple, as their minimalistic architecture often is. An entire room in the Central Pavilion of the Giardini was filled with abstract models of projects by AIRES MATEUS. Their installation investigated the extraction of volumes, connecting positive building forms with the corresponding negative space. This relationship between positive and negative space has always existed inherently, but rarely has it been so clearly and understandably articulated.
RADIX: In 2012, the installation took the form of a single large sculpture which greeted the visitors in the Arsenale. The open and closed arches of RADIX, a steel structure clad with rusting steel panels on the outside and with a golden finish on the inside, could be perceived as a continuation of the arches of the shipyards in the docks of the Venetian Arsenale. Despite the heavy steel construction, the arches of the pseudo-rectangular block along with the brownish, golden color have a light appearance; it is as if the structure were made of wood. The arches are supported at three points, with the main arch overhanging the docks.
FENDA: In 2016, the participation again took the form of an installation, but this time the visitors could enter a beautifully illuminated, mysterious cube, with which the architects symbolically marked the return to the essence of space. Space was considered from the perspective of its relationship with humans, that is, anthropologically. The installation served as a reminder that this is still the essential value of architecture. FENDA is a cube with outside dimensions of 7 7 4 meters. The visitor entered by opening a black curtain, passing through a one-meter-thick concrete wall. Inside, one found oneself in a kind of cave. The slit of light from the entrance opened and closed the visitor's path, changing the scale and perception of space.
FIELD: Though it is another beautiful sculpture, this installation differed from previous ones: this time, one could not enter the installation, only look inside. The curators described this work as a sensitive, poetic, and mathematical reflection on space. What the visitor perceived--the smell, colors, and texture--all reminded of nature. Subtle textures or spots of color emerged from the dark under a diffuse and warm light, evoking the beauty of controlled landscapes and blurring the limits between natural and artificial.
GROUND: The most recent installation, presented at the 2021 biennale, shifted the visitor's perspective afresh. Visitors were allowed to walk over the installation which covered the floor of a central walkway at the biennale. By bringing the visitor's attention to the floor level and thus to the ground, which we all walk on, the installation highlighted what AIRES MATEUS refer to as the shared base of each person's journey on earth. The structure was defined by irregular block sizes and highlighted cutouts of negative spaces, symbolic of humanity's journey within today's transforming world.
Every installation is introduced by a short essay, specially written for this publication by philosophers, architects, and an art critic. Contributors include Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Crespo, Sofia Pinto Basto, Paulo Pires do Vale, and Delfim Sardo.