Between art and architecture
An interview with Diogo Aguiar Studio
Porto, PT

From his art and architecture studio, Diogo tells us about the most pressing issues that he tackles in his studio. He is working on a solution to change the monofunctional, tourist nature of Porto and making it alive for its actual residents. At the same time, his projects display a sensitivity towards the memory of a place, connecting important moments in history and eventually merging technology with nature. He goes on to recount how these concepts pan out in his works like that at the ‘Quinta da Avelada’. This is part of a series of video-interviews with a selection of emerging European practices. A project by Itinerant Office within the cultural agenda of New Generations and the support of Funder35.



Architecture and the ambition of making things happen

I’d say my professional experience started while a was still a student and I was working for UNStudio. There I was dealing for the first time with a big structure of architecture, and learning the good and the not-so-good things of this kind of structures. Then, when I was back at the university, I was doing a competition for a temporary bar with a colleague of mine, and we ended up by winning this competitions and we built the temporary bar made out of Ikea boxes. This gave us the idea that we could apply architecture details everywhere and to every ideas. Actually it started giving us other work opportunities. Nowadays we have different studios and we are working in many different things but still this spirit of doing and designing our own things and to make it happen is something that we are very forward looking to. We like the idea of building architecture in the way that we see our projects realised in a short period of time. This ,of course, implicates that we are much more with the construction and the organisation of the construction processes and all this to make the process and construction times reduced. 


Finding the balance between art and architecture

We are a studio because we don’t see ourselves as a very formal office, in a way. So we are a team of 5 people, we are all more or less the same age, we have a horizontal structure so we sit at the same table, you get more responsibility and more autonomy among we realise you capacities to answer to the project and all this, in this way we are a studio because we collaborate together. We balance our projects between more artistic intervention in the urban space and small architectural projects, and this is very important for because the way they influence each other. The way we work in architecture is truly influenced by our artistic practice and the other way around. Our artistic practice is architectural and our architectural practice tends to be artistic. What we have learned from it is that we are trying to reach people, trying to communicate with people, trying to associate stories or narratives with the objets or buildings we are making. 


Making architecture more accessible to people

I would say that architecture is starting to be more valuable, mostly because these thought platforms. People starts to value the image of architecture, but the images is not what architecture is all about. I would say we should start to address more to people in a way, most of our urban inventions in this kind of operations, we try to talk to people and to make them present on our work. For instance, when we work with temporary cultural spaces that we try to directly relate with the work of the artist exhibited and by this we try to create spaces that are not neutral rooms, they speak with the artist exhibited, and in a way they create a discourse that common people can easily learn from. We are trying to make architecture more accesible to people, we try to directly talk to them and invite them to learn more about architecture. 


Tourism and territory

In Porto, we are dealing with the advert impact of tourism. The city is becoming increasingly monofunctional. As architects, we have a role to work on this and to make the city alive not just for tourists, but for the people who live there. I do not know the answer yet, but this is something that we are concerned with now.

We are also thinking about the idea of territory; the idea of connecting spaces that for some reason at a certain moment in history started became disconnected. Our idea is how can a masterplan can interface with the future of spaces, and I’m not just talking about cities but also rural spaces for instance. We are now working with a project where our is to dematerialise industrial complex into a garden that is visitable by people, so this idea, how technology can merge with nature, for instance, and all this, is something that I would say that will be very present in the architecture of the future, for sure. 


Serralves Pavilion and Quinta da Aveleda

At Serralves Pavilion, which is a garden pavilion, we tried to deal with many constraints at the same time. First of all, it’s a place for exhibiting a piece of art which is a movie -by a Portuguese filmmaker-, so you have to gather the conditions for the ideal exhibiting of these movie. We tried to learn from the movie how could we construct a spatial experience that could emphasise the movie experience. For instance, we were relating with the movie on many aspects of the pavilion and also with olfactive aspects of the pavilion. But more that anything we wanted to create a place that is still a garden but is already a pavilion, so it’s still architecture but it’s also a garden. So we created two walls that are parallel and that you are obligated to walk through when you enter the exhibition space. By this, we wanted to create an introspective space where people could prepare themselves for the exhibition of a piece of art. 

This, that is very easy to explain in a very small building, we are trying to make this now in bigger scale buildings. For instance, at the recent remodelling we have made at Quinta da Aveleda, where we did the new space for the wine testing rooms and the shop of Quinta da Aveleda, and this idea of creating a path, associated with a narrative, where you can learn from the history of the family and all this, can be also integrated in architecture. So we are really trying to see how we can relate simple concepts in buildings that are getting more complex over time. 


DIOGO retouched

Photography Courtesy of Diogo Aguiar Studio

Diogo Aguiar   Rita Chantre

Photography Rita Chantre