Inês Matos Andrade | 2021-12-13

4 Questions for Manuel Aires Mateus

Manuel Aires Mateus is one of the most renowned Portuguese architects. He was born in 1963 and graduated as an architect in 1986 at the Faculty of Architecture /UTL, in Lisbon. Since 1985 he began collaborating with Gonçalo Byrne and following his graduation with his brother Francisco Aires Mateus. Among the various iconic works for which he is known, the following stand out; the restoration of Trindade College in Coimbra, winner of the Architécti/Arkial Prize in 2000; the Rectory of the University of Lisbon, which won the Valmor Prize in 2002; the Sines Arts Centre, finalist for the Mies Van Der Rohe Prize in 2007; the EDP headquarters on Avenida 24 de Julho, inaugurated in 2015 and winner of the 2018 Valmor Prize and the Secil Prize in 2020.

1. How did your relationship with Malhadinha Nova begin?

It started with an invitation from Rita Soares to study the possibility of collaborating on future projects at Malhadinha. It developed with a visit to the estate. Two qualities stood out: firstly, the human aspect of this extraordinary family, and secondly, their ambition in what they do.

2. What do you consider to be the common denominators between your aesthetics as an architect and the estate?

Between the work that is done at Malhadinha and our own, there are some values that coincide that interest us. Respect for the idea of work and for nature. Doing the best we can, a sense of what life and people are, as the centre of the world.

3. How can the Alto Alentejo serve as an inspiration? 

The Alentejo is an inspiration. The Alentejo reflects some of the values that have always been present in Portuguese architecture. Its low-lying architecture, an architecture that responds to problems with the bare "minimums". That condition was more local. But I think that today it has become more universal because we are more aware of this necessary condition for the future of the world. 

4. Which character/idol/artist, living or not, would you like to take to Malhadinha Nova?

That is a very difficult question. First because I have already been to Malhadinha with a person I really admire and who is a great artist, Mário Laginha. I think it is a place where I would like to take some friends with whom I would like to talk to in that tranquillity. Maybe I could imagine taking Fernanda Fragateiro there now because her work reflects a lot on the spatial condition and, somehow, this is Malhadinha Nova's ambition. In an idea of control and promotion of a territory to put it at the service of the people who will enjoy it. 

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