Aires Mateus

Lisboa, Portugal

BIENNIAL PROJECT

Ruin in Time

Aires Mateus presents films and models documenting a pair of stalled construction sites in Portugal. Two abandoned houses become the focus of a contemplative visual essay on architecture and duration. We see them both, bunker-like in the landscape: Monsaraz house, poured insitu concrete with a large dome and oculus carved out at the corner, and Arrábida house: with a central courtyard splicing the low, flat roof into quarters. Both houses appear in the films as an unfolding buildup of incomplete views: from concrete corners jutting out of craggy rocks to rural backdrops for grazing livestock. This project imagines these concrete shells as ruins: a romantic notion that pictured architecture in its return to nature and evoked the sensation of viewing lost civilizations. For Aires Mateus, imagining the building site as ruin echoes a formative moment: their design for a house in Alenquer that spanned a decade in development and drastically changed character when the existing historic house collapsed in ruin around the new interior shell they were inserting. This exchange of duration—the promise of the construction site and the indeterminacy of the decaying relic—revealed the layered durations embedded in acts of architecture.

BIO

Francisco Aires Mateus and Manuel Aires Mateus studied architecture at the Universidade Técnica in Lisbon, where they graduated in 1987 and 1986, respectively. After some years of collaboration with Gonçalo Byrne, they opened the office Aires Mateus. They have been professors at the Accademia di Architectura, Mendrisio, Switzerland since 2001, and at the Universidade Autónoma, Lisbon, since 1998, as well as visiting professors at I.E. Universidad, Segovia in 2012; at Oslo School of Architecture, Norway in 2009; and the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, U.S. in 2005.

Biennial Project: Aires Mateus, Ruin in Time, 2017. Photo courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial / Steve Hall