“Less than ever does the mere reflection of reality reveal anything about reality” (1)1. Bertold Brecht, quoted by Walter Benjamin, Little History of Photography in Walter Benjamin Selected Writings 1931-1934. Michael W. Jennings (ed.) (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press; Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England, 1931),
pp 507/530, p 526.

The etymology of the word reflection refers to what is reflected, whether due to the effect produced by reflected light, a reminiscent image or to something unconscious, involuntary, which is performed without knowledge of the fact. But to be reflective means to meditate, think deeply, as well as to turn back, to reveal, to raise awareness.

Architecture and photographs are inherently reflective, one as a creative and ideological device, and the other by revealing and connecting space and time. This is why the attraction of architects towards photographic images was immediate, first with the idea of recording to document, using the idea of transparency and photographic veracity. Later on, from the last decade of the 19th century, with the ability to reproduce photographs in offset, in the pages of newspapers and magazines, new means of understanding and seeing architecture multiplied and were disseminated.(2)2. For example, Erich Mendelssohn’s fascination in Amerika, Bilderbuch eines Architekten (1928) reflects the turnaround in the understanding of photographed architecture, while others such as Moholy-Nagy or Rodchenko pursued the objective of deconstructing the architectural object to create an image. Mendelsohn, Erich (1993), Erich Mendelsohn’s “Amerika” (New York: Dover).

Thinking of the window as a frame, which reflects a point of view on an object or a landscape, often times between a private space and another that is public, Corbusier’s fenêtre en longueur launched a new hypothesis of relating the interior with the exterior, corresponding in Colomina’s understanding to a gesture and a photographic space.(3)3. Beatriz Colomina, Privacy and Publicity: Modern architecture as Mass Media (MIT Press; Cambridge, Mass.; London 1994), p 131. As one of the figures of modern rhetoric, the myth of transparency revealed architecture with the idea of looking outside the building’s interior. Reflecting the belief in technological progress and in democracy, this ideal of transparency brought together architecture, photography and cinema, thus understanding these media as windows to the world. However, literal transparency is an architectural exercise that is practically impossible, as Pei admitted while designing the Louvre pyramid, wherein the glass, due to the effect of the light, transforms transparency into obscurity, or reflexively into its opposite.(4)4. Anthony Vidler, Architectural Uncanny: essays in the modern unhomely (MIT Press; Cambridge, Mass.; London 1992), p 220.

In the janela paisagem (“landscape window”) of the Centro Cívico Eça de Queirós in Leiria, designed by Gonçalo Byrne, reflection is not a formal artefact, but rather a scenic device that integrates the work in context, bringing together the image and history in a fragmented landscape: the castle descends to the downtown, the historical centre, and its reflection on the mirrored surface, through its inverted image, forms part of the urban fabric. It marks a double movement, the landscape seen from inside outwards, the castle on top of the hill, and the reflected landscape seen from outside, the hill with the castle in the centre of the city.

Entering the building under the columns, we climb some of the ramp of the courtyard and come across the reflected image/landscape. Quickly, the hypothesis of the tableaux fades away, our point of view is now a cinematographic one, a camera in movement. In the middle of the climb, we are surprised by the reflection of our own image within the landscape. Deprived of depth, the mirror as a binocular space of three-dimensional vision, “leads to fusion, in the same visual plane, of the familiar (what can be seen) and the strange (the projected image)”.(5)5. Mahmoud Sami-Ali clarifies this disturbing strangeness: “Being simultaneously itself and the other, familiar and nevertheless strange, the subject is that which has no face and whose face exists from the point of view of the other.” Mahmoud Sami-Ali, “L’espace de l’inquiétante étrangeté”, Nouvelle Revue de Psychanalyse 9 (Spring 1974): 33,43 in Anthony Vidler, Architectural Uncanny : essays in the modern unhomely (MIT Press; Cambridge, Mass.; London 1992), p 222. But only twilight reveals the scenic device: the reflection fades away and the translucent window lets us see the interior partially, while the landscape disappears. Finally, when the illumination of the castle ascends, the landscape/image reaches its zenith.


An interview with Eduardo Souto de Moura
by Pedro Borges de Araújo, Eurico Almeida and Carlos Machado e Moura

The launch and great success of minimalist frames are inseparable from your work, so much so that initially the myth that you were the designer of this product spread across Portugal. What led you to start using minimal frames?

When frameless glass doors began to appear, I realised that glass is a structural element. Throughout the history of windows and openings, frames have been load-bearing and the voids filled in with glass. But at some point in time the contrary started to happen: structural glass did away with the frame, which from then on only served as a sealing device. It became a finish for the glass itself, a corner protector. I’d been asking myself why frame brands would not take advantage of this possibility until one day when a client showed me the Vitrocsa doors and asked me about the feasibility of this product.
I replied: “That’s exactly what I’m looking for. And as I’m designing your house, I’ll use them there. This way, you can test them and find out if you’re interested in representing them for Iberia.” And that was that.

Do you agree with the idea that the technical and formal purity of this type of frame comes as an almost natural continuity of your architecture?

Obviously, it was in line with the architecture I had been practising. Before living in my home, which I designed, I had this idea – which I still entertain, although more moderately – that architecture is made by walls with holes in them. Holes which, when extended down to the floor become doors and, when not, are windows. So, walls, doors and windows make up the trilogy all architecture consists of historically. Until the Modern Movement and Neoplasticism emerged, to which I adhered early in life because I’d always grappled with the scale of buildings. Whenever I tried to design a window or a door I couldn’t find the right proportions because these were always in reference to the old architecture. And I would always lose out. Because the old architecture has a ceiling height of three or four metres and the walls have a thickness of half a metre or a metre. Now we have spaces with a height of two forty and thirty centimetre walls. Everything is lyophilized. So the grammar of this type of language no longer consists of walls with holes but rather walls and non-walls. And a non-wall would require the appropriate expression to strengthen this positive-negative dichotomous image. I was striving to give it a minimal presence so it could be as transparent as possible and the frame could lose its prominence. It was a happy marriage.

This direct relationship between the architectural language and the form of the frames is something that clearly emerges from your work…

Well, I owe that to Siza. Siza’s work has a much more classical language which is completely different from mine, even though he himself was a Neoplastic at an early stage. Just look at the Leça Swimming Pool and the houses where the wooden frames never appear in the middle of the walls, they are always against the sides and the wood folds into the corners. Precisely so that the windows fold into the corners, so that they are a negative of the wall, a non-wall, not quite a hole.

It was when I worked with Siza that I learned to abide by the principle of the “overall work”, i.e. to understand that the work is not made up of separate layers but is rather a whole. You don’t build the foundations first, then the pillars, then the walls, then clad them and finally fit the frames into the holes. With Siza we’d integrate all the 1:20 scale engineering and architectural designs: the plaster, the waterproofing, the door and window frames and even the electrical wiring. All this was done on a model on which Siza would mark where he wanted each component with a biro. He called it the “overall work”, a method in which the chances of error are less because you’re able to control all the elements gathered before you.

However, I recall that Rossi, when I was a student of his, criticised this kind of architecture precisely for this approach. He thought that detail was unnecessary, that each specific development should be entrusted to a specialist. But I was accustomed to this way, to the overall work process, a continuum that is really Loos’ principle.

So, I’m still doing it today, I try to bring together all the information on a project. This leads to the frames having their proper place vis-a-vis the double wall, the blind, etc. All this is dealt with both on the plan and in the section, and the frame is part of a system. I’ve even developed an aluminium kit for Desenho Ibérico that never went ahead, which included a frame in which the sill and the blind were already designed.

So, if we define architecture as walls with holes, then the holes are part of the architecture. It’s something incorporated into it, we won’t be buying a tie without bearing in mind the shirt, the jacket and the shoes. At least, that’s how it was until now.

Is it the reason why it’s so difficult to design windows?

The great difficulty in designing windows lies in the fact that the window is part of a grammar and an organisation of elements. Nowadays the elements have changed so much that we can’t apply the same rules with different materials. Since the wall has stopped having its own thickness, we might be driven to use more and more glass. A window placed above, that doesn’t extend to the floor, can actually be seen as something romantic, like in the film “O Pátio das Cantigas”. (1)1. “O Pátio das Cantigas” is a Portuguese film from 1942, directed by Francisco Ribeiro, “Ribeirinho”, that takes place in a typical Lisbon neighbourhood. So, the loss of the wall thickness is the key issue for me. It’s not just the length and the height that determine the proportion of a building, but also its depth. And, with this trilogy, my one by one metre windows work well in the Monastery of Bernardas because the walls are one and a half metres thick. But the same windows wouldn’t work in the Patio Houses because they miss one of the proportions. They don’t have the thickness, it’s like a large model. And in this case I give up, I’d rather do a non-wall.

What’s the main factor in designing a window? The cost, the ease and convenience of use, the human scale, or is it something else?

None of those, you can’t choose one. It’s a number of countless factors that vary according to circumstances: cost, convenience, scale, context.

When I design a window, first of all I consider what will look good. Not just to contemplate aesthetically, but in terms of logic and comfort. For example, I don’t like to sit with my back to a window, it fills me with a weird, insecure sensation. In fact, in a café people tend to sit in the corners and sides, and the middle remains empty. And in a lounge, you have the position of the sofas and the TV. Besides, the size of a window also depends on how much we want to see outside. I try to create a framing, like a film maker, seeking to not make it overly large, or the interior will vanish and the exterior will be always present, or too small, because then the outside becomes something remote.

And what’s interesting in the evolution of architecture is that we have the possibility of not making choices but rather varying the interior environment. Today I’d rather have more of this, less of that, more or less sun… There are mechanisms that provide us this control, for our comfort. That’s exactly the word: Távora used to say that “architecture is where we feel good”. But at the same time, when we design the elevations, we check whether a given glass panel is absurd or over the top… So it’s these interior and exterior factors that set a window’s boundaries in terms of height and width. All this is done by sensitivity. It’s an equation that needs to be calibrated so that all variables fall naturally into place, so the window is not too heavy, too expensive, too opaque when it should be transparent. And frankly today, I don’t know why, I tend to close off more and more. Because I like it…

Frames have known great development, trying to keep a minimal expression but covering increasingly large glazed surfaces. When exactly did transparency become an architectural need and began to change how windows are designed?

There are two major ambitions and transparency is one of them. One is to counter gravity and everyone has attempted it by making their works lighter. Távora, in his famous class on gravity, “along the thread of the pyramids”, which started with the Egyptian pyramids and ended with Niemeyer’s inverted pyramid, explained that the most stable form corresponds to the pyramid, which changed over time, until Niemeyer makes the inverted pyramid and Pei the glass pyramid. (2)2. This refers to the unbuilt project by Oscar Niemeyer for the Museum of Modern Art of Caracas (Venezuela) in 1954, an inverted pyramid in reinforced concrete, and to the Pyramid for the Louvre Museum in Paris, designed by Ieoh Ming Pei in 1984-89. Together with The Great Pyramid of Giza, they were the subject of Eduardo Souto de Moura’s “A Triangular History”, executed by Jofebar for the Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2016. Therefore, there’s this obsession, this vertigo of lightness on which Italo Calvino wrote a very interesting essay. (3)3.  This refers to “Lightness”, the first chapter of Italo Calvino’s: Six Proposals for the Next Millennium [original: Lezione americane: sei proposte per il prossimo millennio, Milano: Mondadori, 1988 The other ambition is the issue of light. Technical constraints prevented openings from being larger for a long time. Windows used to be tiny, the Ancients needed gigantic stones to create a one-metre opening until evolving techniques made it possible to use different materials: stone and wood, arches, concrete and iron, maybe carbon in the future. All this development came about so that people would have more light.

It is no coincidence that the Modern Movement originated in the Nordic countries, which have stronger links to Calvinism, and where night falls earlier and they need more light. So transparency comes about on the strength of two assumptions: on the one hand, the need for light to work and live; on the other, a religious, moralistic issue of not having anything to hide. The adoption of a correct stance, since there’s no absolution, no escape. As for Southern countries, with their Catholic culture, we find three window obscuring layers: firstly shutters, then thinner curtains, and then drapes. While some need to behave because neighbours are looking in, others have confession to save themselves.

And with the Dom-Ino structure, which is set back, the façade is independent and self-supporting, and can be entirely in glass. This is particularly useful for the real estate sector since office buildings have problems at the rear, from lack of light in the areas furthest away from windows. That’s why extending the glass until the ceiling allows for deeper illumination. All these issues are instrumental. I’m convinced that the History of Architecture has variants but it always starts from a need. Perhaps it’s a pragmatic illusion of mine, but I believe that everything is born out of a primary function, which then gives way to digressions or semantics that bestow a given meaning on a use.

All this takes on a different symbolism when companies do not see a functional need in glass but a question of status because glass is expensive and modern. That’s why the Seagram was entrusted to Mies, the architect who most used glass, just as bronze was chosen as a cladding, an imposition made by the client. All this has progressively had different expressions and statuses.

In turn, the German Pavilion at the 1935 World Fair in Brussels, entirely glazed with the Swastika on the front, was a way of publicising the Nazi regime as modern, transparent and progressive. In their letters to Goebbels and Rosenberg calling for the Bauhaus not to be closed down, Gropius and Mies used precisely the justification that the superior capacity for production of the Bauhaus over other centres was a way of demonstrating the superiority of the Arian race. In short, transparency becomes a mark of power.

Do you face technological challenges today, development avenues to explore, besides those semantic dimensions?

There are developments but they’re much slower or not applied at all. Whenever I board a plane and see the stewardess close the door, making it slide with just two fingers, I wonder why houses don’t have this technology. It doesn’t exist.

Countless solutions used in aeronautics in WWII contributed to the technical innovations of post-war Modern Architecture, as indeed the book by Jean-Louis Cohen shows. (4)4. Cohen, Jean-Louis: Architecture en Uniforme: Projeter et construire pour la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Montreal: CCA, 2011 Neufert himself was an engineer in the German Army during this war, and applied a rational systematisation to German industrial and military architecture.

So I’d say there are development vectors, and one is the economy. A one and a half metre thick wall in the Middle Ages is reduced to forty centimetres in the 19th century, to a 10 centimetre panel in the Case Study Houses, and today to a 2 centimetre one in glass. And from a physical point of view, it may even perform better.

But on a psychological level, this is not the case. The evolution was not so quick because the house is a very conservative institution. Many of the typological elements of the Greek or Roman house subsist after thousands of years – the day-time and night-time areas, the public and private areas, the courtyards, etc. And a Sumerian house from 5,000 BC is quite similar to an Alentejo house. The door, the roof, the area for the animals, the sleeping quarters, etc. are the same. I say this with our Hellenic and Roman culture in mind. Of course, there are other cultures in which the relationship with the space is completely different.

However, as Soutinho said in a class: “Astronauts love to return home”; despite the contribution of all the technical innovations to a person’s well-being, they don’t actually create well-being.

Jofebar has sought to reconcile industrialisation with a certain level of craftsmanship, making prototypes and developing project-specific solutions. Does this approach make sense under market conditions?

There’s a very interesting topic to do with the fact that the Modern Movement borrowed the basis of its design from industry, even if it hasn’t used the industrial logic subsequently. I’ve never understood why; it’s a mystery to me. For example, in the metal structure of Mies’ Barcelona chairs, the two welds for the X take two days to complete. This is everything but an industrial choice in a chain system. And the metal tubes in Le Corbusier’s grand confort sofas would be flattened if they were bent. They would require very large radiuses, like the Cassina LC4, which is the only chair with a correct curvature radius. So, they’re expensive, not only because of their design status, but also because their manufacturing process is irrational from the industrial point of view at their origin. That’s why they are not simply a consumer item but have become a work of art. This rationality aspect is the starting point but never the end. Maybe that’s why these objects are not comfortable. And, quite interestingly, that principle also applies to architecture. We could consider why the houses in the History of Architecture have seldom been lived in…

How can we reconcile today the solutions designed specifically for each project with the operational needs for certification, safety, performance and economy that are imposed, e.g. by the European Community?

That’s a really interesting question because I think that virtually the entire economy works for profit. From Russia to China through to America, there’s a capitalist system of capital gain generation which drives the economy. No-one’s really very interested in focusing on people’s happiness. If they were, waste would be used to put an end to hunger and poverty. So, in my view, this whole issue of safety, performance, economy, etc. is mainly a way to increase profit. And even ecology is a form of marketing that works because it’s fashionable. Does it make any sense that in Zurich thermal insulation for walls is thirty centimetres? If it were for the cold, you’d wear a jumper, it’s that simple.

Or the irrational measures currently imposed in France, making every house be prepared for people in wheelchairs. Since every room needs to accommodate a turning radius of one and a half metres, but the living area has not increased, hallways, kitchens and bathrooms have to take space from the lounge which is reduced to a table and four chairs. Conviviality is gone. This accessibility principle applies to all apartments, even to three-storey buildings without a lift, which cannot be accessed by a wheelchair. It’s a contrivance! And what about the limitations on glazed surfaces? I designed a standard residential building in Bordeaux, facing a lake, and wanted a wide oblong window to provide a view over that beautiful scenery. But I couldn’t exceed one square metre, which is the limit imposed by law on residential windows, established to restrict energy consumption. To have a wider surface, I’d have to install photovoltaic solar panels to make up for the additional use of energy. Other options, such as restricting maximum heating power, are not acceptable. There is a clear option for increasing the sales of panels, and the subsidy granted to their installation is withdrawn if these are not visible from the street, as was the case with a design by a friend of mine.

I’m not saying that ecology and safety are just a business, but in construction they amount to economic gain: more concrete, more iron, more insulation thickness, more double and triple glazing, more investment money are always needed.

So, you’re not happy with the state of the art as far as frames are concerned?

Not at all! And to start with, as for the term “state of the art” I have my doubts that architecture is an art. It must, first and foremost, meet a function, whereas art doesn’t have to meet anything, it stands on its own. I’m not denying it might be art, but I reject the idea that there’s an underlying artistic principle in architecture. I’m called upon to solve a problem, I don’t go about making houses to express a feeling… it’s only afterwards that the project evolves.

But no, I’m not happy at all because there are millions of problems to solve, starting with the materials themselves. For example, now there’s a focus on electric cars, but lithium batteries are made from cobalt from the Congo mines. The ore is being depleted and its extraction raises a series of human problems. (5)5. http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/batteries/congo-cobalt-mining-for-lithium-ion-battery/ One day soon they will bar batteries and electric cars will be no more. And the situation with aluminium is similar. As far as I know, the consumption of energy required to get to the purification state of pure aluminium, with all the treatments and anodizations, is extremely high. We have to focus on simpler solutions. There are no stone frames, they have to be in wood. There’s nothing more environmentally-friendly than wood, because it is planted, cut and planted again, it’s a good insulator and its repair is quite artisanal. At a time when so much attention is given to the classification of materials, as was the case with the Clermont-Ferrand Theatre, it’s the right way to go. And glued laminated timber is so resistant that, in a breakage situation, it doesn’t break at the glued sites. This development suggests the possibility of mixed situations with metal and wood. Reinforced concrete is nothing but reinforced stone. And I’ve designed tables in reinforced wood which you look at and see three centimetres because the inside is completely in iron. These tables have never moved except at the mitred joints. So I’m quite sure we’ll be making frames in reinforced timber. I also think there are no good or bad materials.

In the 1980s the Iran-Iraq war aroused a fear there might be a shortage of petrol. The automobile industry responded with tiny, very light, low-consumption vehicles, such as the Citroen AX which had wonderful publicity on the Great Wall of China. (6)6.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOn4digOIvM Now it would appear that petrol won’t come to an end, that it can self-regenerate and be produced from schist. As such, petrol was never spoken of again, as there’s an abundance of it and its price has decreased, changing the paradigm all over again.

There’s new materials to be discovered for sure, extremely hard plastics, many products to succeed wood, iron and even aluminium. I remember when Siza and I were collaborating in Berlin, he proposed to use wooden frames and was told it was fine because they were cheap. And Siza asked: “That’s cheap?” They replied: “We were afraid you would want aluminium.” Because aluminium was expensive and a job well done is really expensive. We’ve come a long way but there’s still a lot to be done.

What pointers or ways can you suggest for future developments?

Stravinsky quoted Verdi saying: “Let us go back to the past, it will be a step forward.” (7)7. Torniamo all’antico e sarà un progresso. Written by Giuseppe Verdi in a letter to Francesco Florimo, 5th January 1871. He was referring to music but I believe it also applies to architecture and construction. For instance, when I’m due to design a house and I’m at a loss, I open the Inquérito (8)8. “Arquitetura Popular em Portugal”, published in 1961 and I draw from the photos. I don’t copy the photo but as I draw I interpret. Unconsciously, of course, the copying mustn’t be a conscious act, otherwise it would be ridiculous.

So, I believe we could recapture an old practice in teaching architecture, which is to redesign buildings. There was the “statue drawing” which you learned to do by reproducing Greek statues, as I did. And in Fine Arts Schools, all modern architects used to draw Greek temples to learn how to draw and study the proportions. Even though some think this is a dangerous practice, the architecture they were doing had nothing to do with that exercise. Távora has never designed a Greek temple, or Viana de Lima for that matter! When I worked with Siza and he inquired about some proportion – for instance for a balustrade for a church in São Miguel de Ceide – he’d ask Távora who, in turn, would draw Palladio’s balustrade by hand, whose proportions he had studied. Even Le Corbusier would draw his villas and then apply Florentine Renaissance lines to them.

When it comes to frames, I think it’s important to cultivate their history and the practice of their design to understand what may be inferred from them for the future. The same goes for cars. For example, there’s a book of all the drawings of the Volkswagen Beetle and the Porsche 911 on tracing paper and, when you superimpose the sheets, you see that the differences between the various models are minimal: one, two, three centimetres. They’re constantly redrawn but they’re always modern cars and they’re always the 911 model.

The same happens with frames. I remember the window I designed in brass for the Pousada de Santa Maria do Bouro which Távora subsequently used when he dealt with the extension to the Parliament Building, also metal on metal with no rubber weatherstripping. I used it again in another project but applying rubber. Now Francisco Vieira de Campos, Cristina Guedes and João Mendes Ribeiro have used it in the Arquipélago – the Contemporary Arts Centre in Ribeira Grande (Azores), always changing and improving on the model. This detail is the result of transposing to brass a wooden frame that existed in Bouro with a very interesting system. It has a reversed tooth, inwards, which lets water in, running off along some grooves, to be collected in a half-round and then come out through a hole. It’s the British theory, which Jorge Gigante advocated saying: “In construction, water must get in unhindered so we know where it is, and then we take it out”. As far as I’m concerned, it bothers me to put the trench coat on under the jumper, but sooner or later the water gets in and we need to take it out. It’s smart reasoning. In the same way, the sash windows of Braga which also tilt, are a very intelligent system. I believe it could be a source of inspiration, a starting point for a new solution.

One needs to place some trust in tradition. In the same way that animals evolved over millions of years, in construction there are also features of vernacular architecture that have been improved over time. And this evolution has made them more natural.

Knowing how to connect and disconnect is a great art. For example, by connecting sounds or colours we achieve music and art based on harmony and meaning. We also connect words, concepts, and feelings. In doing so, we reveal secrets hidden in our hearts and minds. Furthermore, there is no connection without disconnection. In the processes of connecting and disconnecting, we need to make choices. We need to choose to provide order.

A person with a place among other people orders that space. To have a place among other people opens doors for coordinating relationships between people, which makes the world habitable. That is, a world where peace and the development of life are possible: this is architecture.

All of reality is screaming out for release from chaos. This release is achieved through relationship and connection. To hear that scream (which is a groan at times) is to commit oneself creatively to finding paths of development and humanisation: this is culture. To cultivate those paths is a service to life. Above all, in personal life: in one’s urge and desire to be who one is; to transcend oneself by communicating. This urge and desire take shape in the continuous search for safety, meaning, and place.

However, culture’s enemies are well disguised. For instance, the individualistic assertion, the easy exchange of the cosmic for the cosmetic, and the illusion of consumerist pleasure are forces that block and deceive. Indeed, these forces damage relationships of respect and beauty. Individualism perverts the liberty that is only cultivated through shared responsibility; the cosmetic disrespects the time and form of reality by remaining satisfied with the immediacy of superficiality; consumerism demands rights without duties. All of this creates social and ecological ruptures: it kills connections.

Now, the culture that connects us – inside and outside – opens windows to balanced lives, to just relationships, and weights culture’s impact on the environment. Since a person is also a part of nature, the environment includes both nature and the person inhabiting it.

Culture is patient and evolves creatively. Courageous and responsible culture cares for the common good, and gives, receives, and interconnects: it is the engine of humanisation.

I firmly believe that culture only exists if we believe in the human’s capacity for self-transcendence: to go beyond oneself, which is more important than going beyond the conventional. This is the real test: to be able to move the focus from oneself, and instead, to focus on the good of others or on higher values. However, one has to be centered within oneself before one can transcend oneself. This is the true sense of the connection that becomes relationship in everything I do and think. The question is: How do I connect to life?

Furthermore, what distinguishes human beings from other creatures are their relationships and their “identifying” quality. It is one thing to have connections (and relationships) to matter, to the spirit, to others, to space and time, etc., it is another to be conscious of those relationships (more or less chosen and accepted) that make me the person that I am.

The architect chooses or accepts a plot of land. The architect ponders the background, the resources and the human and environmental consequences of the desired work. What for? How? With whom? The architect searches for the right questions that connect ideas, time, space and people. The architect knows that “reality takes priority over ideas”. The architect believes in the value of these connections and designs the project as the culmination of desired relationships. The architect never constructs alone, nor does he/she build for oneself. And he/she mobilizes all the inter-relationships that are needed to give substance to the spirit.

When one opens the window, it is like someone starting a conversation; one opens opportunities. A building’s windows are like the windows of the soul, they allow for entry and exit. It is a risk. It is always a delicate play between two complementary things: the search for intimacy and for outwardness. Both of which seek and protect relationships and connections.

What is the right place, the right measure, the right time? The response can be seen in art when each of us can put ourselves in the other’s shoes without leaving our own, and it is in that conversation that harmony, meaning and beauty are created.

There is no need for a battle between function and aesthetics, if the paradigm is the person among people, and not economics or technology. These fields of knowledge are meant to be at our service…What is necessary is to have the sense of the common good, of the global that does not kill the local, of unity that does not eliminate difference. There has to be dialogue between the connections that inhabit our minds, our hearts and our wills.

Only love can be the architect of the Good.

Jofebar is a company whose work I highly regard. It was established as a blacksmiths, and in 2008 launched a highly innovative solution for window frames. Today, 80% of its business is abroad, with a presence in 24 countries with local partners in most cases.

A very important step was taken in 2011 with the integration of a glass processing company, and the verticalisation of its business, increasing the creation of value.

Jofebar’s work often involves not only supplying and installing frames, but also dealing more broadly with blacksmithing and metal coatings. In the course of its development, Jofebar has combined two key aspects to its success as a company in the global market. On the one hand, active internationalisation; on the other, constant innovation and adding value. Active internationalisation occurs when a company controls overseas value-generating activities, be they production units or sales outlets. Partnerships with local groups can greatly help in gaining footholds in new markets. Internationalisation is of the utmost importance when it comes to a company that is active in mature domestic markets, with permanently increasing competition. On the other hand, economic globalisation of production and markets is an additional challenge for a company with a winning project. It is, therefore, necessary to seek to control a growing share of the added value, ensuring direct and faster access to new customers and markets, better capturing all the information about their behaviour. As the presence in a particular foreign market increases, it is fundamental to bring the operational base of a company closer to its own distribution, and even production, base. This was, indeed, the path followed by many of our innovative SME’s, as was and is the case of Jofebar. But in the process of internationalisation, a strong position must first be achieved in a particular market, and only then internationalise.

For internationalisation to succeed, it is very important to position the brand and have local partners, where available, to facilitate penetration in distribution channels. Brand awareness is an important asset, facilitating marketing. Business integration, driven by stable alliances and/or specific projects, will be the new driver for the deepening of bilateral relations and a factor in building a rich but complex web of international and intersectorial cross interests. The acquisition of a local company can enable this to be done quicker than others do. Finding a suitable target, at a reasonable price, is therefore a challenge of paramount importance. Another key element is to appoint managers with international experience, able to work in different cultural environments. The spectacular rebalancing of our balance of current payments owes much to the talent of numerous exporting SMEs, such as Jofebar, providing market share gains in key foreign markets and contributing decisively to the export to GDP ratio going up from 27% in 2009 to over 40% in 2015, and now approaching the average values of the European Union and in particular the Euro-zone countries.

As for the attitude of Jofebar towards the scaling up of the research and development process and its conversion into economic value through innovation, we should recall the successful path taken by Portugal from the beginning of the century. The role of the universities in this success was crucial because the majority of the entities responsible for the developments made depended directly or indirectly on them. Indeed, Portugal has launched the most advanced training programme to date, particularly in the areas of science and technology. It should be recalled that our evolution has been remarkable, especially in the first decade of this century. Between 2005 and 2009, Portugal was the EU country with the highest growth rate in R&D intensity as a percentage of GDP. In 5 years we had an increase of over 110%, whereas the European Union grew on average by 10%. R&D in Portugal today is closer to the EU average; we only need to remember that in 2000, Portugal’s record in this area was only about 35% of the European Union, but today it is nearer 65%. Since 2010, investment in R&D as a percentage of GDP has steadily declined, falling from more than 1.6% to less than 1.3%. It is important to adopt policies that once again approach the average EU values with regard to our research capacity and increase our knowledge transfer capacity, in which our deficit is still undeniable. We have greatly increased our research capacity, but our capacity to convert the knowledge generated into economic value still lags behind, which is a natural phase in a process of this nature. Increasing the proportion of researchers working in businesses or companies has to be a priority concern. The percentage of researchers per thousand active population in Portugal is higher than the EU average at 28. However, the percentage of researchers working in businesses and companies, measured in full-time, is around 20%, whereas the European Union average is about 50%, and in more advanced countries such as the United States, it is 80%.

The challenge facing Portugal involves encouraging research and innovation, as these are the decisive policies in the reduction of inequality. If Portugal wants to pursue its ambition to strengthen its competitiveness, it has to stimulate and support the increased effort in R&D. Public policies have to value the work of researchers in and for companies, and this needs to be reflected in their careers. We all have to be mobilised collectively, within a long-term strategy to transform our country into a more modern, more innovative and more just society. Never in our history have we had a generation so close to the most advanced European countries. None of us will forgive a failure. Our route to India, in the 21st century, must be travelled hand in hand with Science and Business, just as happened in the time of the Discoveries. In the 16th century, Science was embodied by the Nautical School of Sagres, where remarkable knowledge was generated and the information collected was processed to make the planning of new discoveries possible. Today, the role of those navigators falls on our businessmen and women.

[1] Do architects inhabit windows differently?

There is an indefinable moment when students become architects: when they look at a window in order to look inside. Into the window, if metaphysics allows it, but also into the history of architecture, as an object of study. The window is at once essential and banal, like a cane to someone with a limp. Designing this cane is the daily task of the architect. Of course, students are never openly told this (it would come as quite a shock). It is a secret administered in homeopathic doses, becoming ingrained gradually and without warning; it is never even questioned. When the realisation hits, windows are already a part of us; they are what we do.

As a professor of history of architecture, I talk about windows all the time, mostly without realising it; they are the air breathed by architects, the air which finds it way in through slides.

When visiting buildings we cannot enter, as so often happens to robbers and detectives, windows assume enormous significance: they are our brief and fleeting gateway to an imagined interior. The shadows they cast are almost malevolent – filters which reveal little. This is the moment the window takes on a malice not available to the door. After all, a door either opens, or does not. Windows take their time, pretending for a while, promising what they cannot deliver.

When designing windows, the architect returns to the fine arts, like James Stewart to the voyeurism of Rear Window

[2] When Frank Lloyd Wright began to abandon “sash windows” in favour of “casement windows” in the Winslow House (1893), seeking to create a gradually glazed continuous plane, the game began to change. In the Chicago School, the window had already undergone designs likening it to a “glass façade”, as in the Reliance Building (Burnham and Root, 1895). Wright transforms the window into a complex architectural activity, which can move up or down in the context of the house, extend as far as the ceiling, shape space, join or leave the perimeter, have thickness, be an object rather than simply a device. There is a drama in Wright’s windows which seems to reflect the drama of his own life. In the Robie House (1909), windows become the house’s negative image, with a structurally architectural function. They are not sub-products adorning walls, symmetrical or replaceable; they determine, as much as or more than the wall, the architecture of the house.

There is a famous discussion between Le Corbusier and Auguste Perret (with whom he worked) on the virtues of the horizontal window (fenêtre en longueur) as compared to the vertical one. Perret maintained that the vertical window expressed the human body, framing it in an anthropomorphic, primordial relationship with the outside world. He equated Le Corbusier’s horizontal window with visual excitation and a panoramic view, which he detested. Le Corbusier’s figurative man stood with open arms, surveying the world over 180 degrees. Nothing could stop him.

However, the argument was won by Mies van der Rohe, who abandoned the idea of the window as an opening, transforming it instead into a plane. Applying the principles of Dutch neoplasticism, Mies invented a window which was no longer a window: the “glass curtain wall” was about to emerge as the solution best suited to the idea of the skyscraper as an abstract, monolithic, mathematical structure; America is grateful.

[3] The glass does not make the window; what makes the window is the frame. Glass produces reflections and casts shadows – it is not transparent. The frame is gone. What, then, remains in the “glass curtain wall”? An enigmatic surface, possessive, self-referential.

The window has been an interface between technology and culture ever since man thought to pull a stone out of a wall to make a hole and begin the day, as Louis Kahn would say. The “glass curtain wall” embodies a triumph of technology over culture in that it does not reflect a measure or deliberation of an anthropomorphic nature, a man standing with open arms and a fixed or panoramic gaze.

The window’s reinvented design – or its disappearance – define a number of key moments in 20th century architecture. In the extreme case of an architecture seeking to become free of itself – in order to be a machine, a piece of furniture, a device – the first casualty must be the window. Vertical or horizontal, the window “demands” the silhouette of a man or woman, immediately fixing ancestral measurements. It creates a theatre, it implies a stage. The window signifies a story which has already taken place or has yet to be told.

The “glass curtain wall” aims to bring about the end of suspense, the end of narrative, the end of secrets. It would later be necessary to install curtains in the Farnsworth House (Mies van der Rohe, 1950) in order for the theatre to recommence. Curtains make the window, as we learn here. But do they also have the capacity to redeem a house without windows? How often, in hotels, curtains suggest windows which fail to materialise… Without curtains we would be in a nameless hole; windows are dispensable…

The “glass curtain wall” is an automation; a conquest of architect-builders, entrepreneurs of a united world. The work of Dan Graham and Eduardo Souto de Moura can be interpreted as a perpetuation of this event for art and architecture. Dan Graham’s pavilions employ the “glass façade” for a critical performance in which the mirror accentuates the labyrinthine dimension like a transparency taken to to the extreme; in the architecture of Eduardo Souto de Moura, the “glass façade” is placed in “dialogue” with vernacular elements in a collage in which the spoils of the 20th century – modern, primitivistic, ruralist, hyper-urbanised – collide.

[4] Forgetting for a moment the grand question of curtains, what windows – or non-windows – does the future hold in store for us?

Perhaps a biomorphic window which adapts to our body – neither horizontal nor vertical, neither façade nor wall. When that time comes, the window will be a projection of every one of us; and just one of many screens we use to look outside. (Inside?)

Alongside these neo-windows, more conventional ones will also continue to exist: with shutters, blinds, hinged, louvre, tilting, mysterious. Our search for intelligent windows began when we were still living in caves; windows accompany the slow/fast progress of mankind, like a cane for those who wish to see, stoically immobile, in the lounge or bedroom.

Windows in the ceiling to admit “zenith light” are known as skylights, but we have yet to find a name for those in the floor which allow us to contemplate Roman ruins. Mirrored glass creates a specular window which projects the movement of the clouds onto tables and office staplers.

Every window aspires to be a mirror, one day. The mirror is a window which has become emancipated, which has acquired a personality. It shows only what is already known.

When every window is a mirror, architects will no longer be needed.