Pragmatic Abstraction

architect João Luis Carrilho da Graça
project St Antonio's Church and St Bartolomeu Social Centre, Portalegre, Portugal
written by Carlos M. Guimarães


The architectural ideas behind Carrilho da Graça’s major projects and buildings are not new or brightly innovative, but instead they are becoming clearer and strongly effective. For many years now, this influential Portuguese architect has been suggesting that architecture ‘must stage the minimum in the most intense way’ and therefore buildings ‘should be simple and warm’. One could argue that there are many ways to achieve a positive proposal from this simplicity/intensity dilemma, but to architect Carrilho da Graça there are two preferred guidelines: an undeniable pragmatic approach to the programme – in an attempt to simplify it – and an idea of purity and abstraction based on human proportions – in order to achieve that so-appealing intensity.