CH: How important to you is international recognition through Awards like these?
FS: Recognition is important – although it’s always a surprise for us – as it gives some visibility to our work, recognizing and validating our approach.
CH: The Guimarães project has also won other awards, including the 2013 Mies Award, ‘red dot – best of the best 2013’ and Detail magazine readers’ prize. With growing recognition do you expect more international work and will this change your approach?
FS: We have already done some work internationally – in Ghana, Mozambique, and Brazil – and are actively seeking other markets where our work can be developed. If awards help further expansion of our international operations, all the better. Our approach will probably stay the same, although with more effort in understanding local realities for each case – something that we consider essential in developing any project.
CH: Can you explain your interests and preferences in terms of choosing materials for your projects?
FS: I think this comes, not from a simple search, but the realisation of untapped potential and uses of numerous materials, able to serve each project, distinct reality and intended expression. Essentially, it is necessary to have a very clear conscience about materials and their impact on architecture.
CH: How did the choice of brass as one of the main external materials for the Guimarães project develop?
FS: The material and its composition made it possible for the building to have specific characteristics such as gloss, rhythm, transparency and opacity – and so the choice was very natural but supported by the possibilities of local manufacturing. It meant that several prototypes were executed during the design phase to gauge the possibilities for implementation of the facade panels and their respective costs, achieving the best balance between these two factors.
CH: Do you think the fact that you are locally based architects influence the project’s design?
FS: Absolutely. It starts with the confidence of the Owner. Then, our knowledge of local realities – physical, social and economic – helps us to be more assertive in the proposals and projects we do.
CH: Much of your work has been built in and around Guimarães. What impact do you think Pitágoras has had on this historic town?
FS: Guimarães has made an enormous effort, not only recovering its historic centre but also equipping itself for a new paradigm of regional and local development, more focused on knowledge and qualifications for people. Through our buildings, we see ourselves as agents of this fundamental change to our collective future.
CH: Which architects or teachers have influenced you most?
FS: Pitágoras partners had their training as architects in the Oporto School, and with teachers such as Tavora, Siza or Souto de Moura. But, more than the direct influence of this or that teacher or individual, we have learnt that it’s most important to keep our eyes wide open to reality – both local and global.
CH: How would you summarise your approach to architecture – do you and your colleagues see yourself as modernists?
FS: For us – and this has been the way of architecture in Portugal – the most important factors are location and attention to detail. Regarding categorization of our work, it is better if others do that. Yes, we are interested in learning from ‘modernism’ – but from its mistakes as well as its achievements.
CH: What is the collaborative process between you and your colleagues in Pitágoras when working on a project?
FS: We see ourselves always as a collective throughout the entire office, whatever the geometry we use to perform a specific job.
CH: Away from architecture, when you have time, how do you relax away from architecture?
FS: There are plenty of pleasurable things to do in the world beyond architecture, starting with the first coffee in the morning…