João Luis Carrilho da Graça: Ponte Pedonal, Carpinteira
It is odd which architects in other countries come to our attention and which don't. João Luis Carrilho da Graça has a huge reputation in Portugal, many awards, a long and stellar career of relentlessly minimal sculptural modernist work. Websites are full of dramatic photos of shooting white wall planes, hard blue skies. The work of Alvaro Siza, who has a much larger critical reputation outside Portugal, appears almost hand-made in comparison: shaped and trogdylitic, lots of saudade, absent in Carrilho da Graça.
However, FG+SG sent us this da Graça footbridge over the Carpinteira near Covilha a little while ago: new photographs, the bridge was designed in 2003 and finished in 2009. It is a 220m pedestrian bridge, centre piece perpendicular to the stream bed and valley, the two end sections determined by anchoring points. Hard to find much hard information on the engineering, materials or constructions but I did find this news clip which appears to discuss the controversial nature of the project:
As I write this, I'm also listening to a radio program about Louise Bourgeois who died a couple of days ago. She says 'all my work is suggestive, not explicit. The explicit is boring'. This footbridge is very explicit, its engineering is beautifully calculated to just draw a brave line across the valley — and there it sits, nothing ulterior or mysterious about it. One might wonder if this is the ultimate limitation of the modernists, that in the past 30 years of layered signification in urban environments and in architecture, this kind of minimalism ultimately says too little to sustain a conversation beyond its engineering.
The question is perhaps why we have asked our architecture to speak eloquently about the human condition, rather than just containing, with some sort of grace, the human condition.