Alvaro Siza

Only five works by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Alvaro Siza are on display at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, but they feel like a lot more. The exhibit is spacious and understated yet is brimming with the architect’s playful and sometimes subversive ideas, presented in models, photographs, sketches and blueprints. Unlike the works of many of his contemporaries, Siza’s schematic drawings aren’t intended as art. He issues sparse outlines of a building — you’ve got to thoroughly parse them to get even a general sense of what he wants to build. The buildings are the art. The three enclosed ramps of the Ibere Camargo Foundation Museum in Porto Allegre, Brazil, cantilever so far out from the façade that you can’t imagine how they stand up. The Santa Maria Church, in his native Portugal, has a low strip window that allows parishioners to avert their gaze from the altar onto the spectacular surrounding mountain range. The Water Reservoir at Aviero, Portugal, is nothing more than a pair of skinny concrete columns, one round, one rectangular, with a boxcar-size tank perched perilously on top. You can spend an afternoon discovering in these few works just how concise and clear-eyed Siza is, and experience, too, the pleasure of refinement through simplicity.

ALVARO SIZA | Santa Monica Museum of Art, Bergamot Station G1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica | Through August 19

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