Renowned Portuguese architect says downturn will end ‘consumerist’ building design

The global credit crunch could see the “end of consumerism” in architecture, according to Álvaro Siza, who became the 159th recipient of the RIBA royal gold medal at the institution’s annual ceremony last night.

In an interview with Building, the Portugese architect said the downturn could improve the quality of architecture. He said: “Everything is reflected in architecture. There is the possibility that a kind of consumerism in architecture will be ended.”

Siza’s work, which includes Portuguese buildings such as the Boa Nova restaurant in Leça and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, might be described as experimental modernism. It is this kind of austerity that he predicts will hold sway in the new economic climate.

“If you look at buildings in Dubai, they reflect money and power,” he said. “I think that from this crisis will emerge an architecture that is not reliant on things that are not needed.”

Although Siza is cited as an influence by British architects such as David Adjaye and David Chipperfield, he has built nothing here apart from a pavilion at the Serpentine gallery in Hyde Park. He put this down to a reluctance to enter competitions, but claimed that his style was not always popular with clients.

He said: “We cannot blame anyone for it. If you think how difficult it was for Le Corbusier to work, he had to go to India, to Switzerland, to Brazil …”