Collage As A Tool To Play With Different Universes

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Collage, Perspective View, Students, Texture

Collage As A Tool To Play With Different Universes 

Maria Morais

Water is the beginning of all that exists, the vital element of human existence, having been the subject of different cults and several conceptions. The triple symbolism water-body-bath is as old as humanity itself, and its reference as creative element of the world, in the various civilizations and cultures, allows to show not only its importance, but also its symbolic complexity. The present essay constitutes a study about the relationship between Man and Water, creator of city and culture, and how it was manifested and modified over time, intending to rediscover some of the ritual and the memory impregnated and associated with it.

Of the extensive beaches that once defined the waterfront area and image of Lisbon, many eventually turned into more permanent elements, driven by the accelerated growth of the port and industrial activities, shaped by man under the form of landfills that formed continuous and insurmountable barriers. This gesture has drastically changed the relationship of the city and the population with its river, giving these areas a marginal quality.  This investigation proposes a reflection on this new territory conquered to the river, the post-industrial landfill of Lisbon, analyzing it in its gradual abandonment and current consequence and participation in the city, laying the foundation for a critical discourse about its construction and future uses. At a time when the topic of densification of cities has become increasingly urgent, these urban voids gain relevance and prominence in the reforming and revitalizing process, due to its centrality, area, informality and connection to the river.

The Tagus Baths. Spaces of Water and Light in Aterro da Boavista arises through the practical development of an urban and architectural proposal that seeks to recover to memory some of the ritual and tradition of water and baths that were lost in the time, returning them to their original character, in their therapeutic, social and playful dimensions. The proposal takes shape in the construction of a building of exception in the most exposed point of the landfill of Boavista, which claims its place as a reference point in the riverfront façade of the city and as an element of urbanity.


Who influences you graphically?

I believe that the graphic communication of a project plays a very important role in any architectural process, from a quick free-hand sketch of an idea or concept to the final presentation. Given this, collage and illustration seemed to me a way of communicating architecture as more than just proportions, programs and uses, measurements and layouts; but as a living thing, with it’s own atmosphere, characters and personality. The first moment I came across this type of graphic form was while I was doing my Erasmus Program in Gent, Belgium. I drew inspiration from the Office KGDVS and also DOGMA Studio, and since then, there’s been a lot of new and different influences. For my Master Thesis, the images were built from a variety of references that I’ve been collecting over the years. I was inspired by Jack Vettriano romantic paintings, David Hockney familiar everyday life scenes, Henri Rousseau exotic ambiances, etc., but also from a lot of work I see online (an unlimited source of inspiration), from other students and studios. I’ve always been fascinated by this type of abstraction, to be able to communicate the absolute essence of the project, but at the same time allowing it to be completely subjective, free and informal, always depending on the observer.

You explore your proposal through all means of representation, do you think that only like this is one able to fully understand and convey a project?

I consider all means of representation important, each one with a different role and scope of course, and each one describing different and essential relations with the context. Some of them enlighten the observer on the geometry and implantation of the elements in the landscape, while others allow a truer understanding of its ambiance, appropriation by users, light and touch of the materials. The plans and sections represent how the project is grounded in its surroundings, its spaces and uses, and how it connects with the pre-existing, the city and the river. They translate the guidelines, physical and conceptual, of form, volume and scale. The axonometric view gives a great representation of how each of the elements relate to each other. But it is through the atmospheric images that we get a real sense of place. They represent the atmosphere, the character, the emotion of a certain space. Also, they are the easiest form of communicating spaces and ideas to anyone who doesn’t come from an architectural point of view, allowing the observer to participate actively in the designing process. This is because they play with feeling, memory and imagination. They are common ground. So I guess all these elements complete and reinforce the “picture” that we are trying to propose.

What is the effect and purpose of de-contextualizing art fragments and inserting these into your perspective views?

The collage of fragments from paintings gives us the opportunity to play with different universes, to cross different realities and dreams. It allows me to create a world of my own, an alternative story, with a certain a-temporal quality. Moreover, some of the scenes painted by Jack Vettriano, from which I took most of my characters, recreate a very intimate, relaxed and cool atmosphere, something I wanted to endow the project with, and something that I feel is very present in Lisbon’s urban culture.

How does the white frame influence the images?

When I present an architectural project, I want it to carry the same feeling as a painting exposed in a museum. The white frame, like a passe-partout in the painting of a museum, contains this new world I’m proposing, this new possibility within the city, giving it great importance. So the white margins are almost like visual memory if you will. Also, if we take the word and analyze it more carefully, passe-partout stands for universal means of passage, like a master key into the world and story I’m trying to convey.

What dictated your choice for texture, how does this relate to either materiality and or atmosphere of the project?

The textures used relate to a certain sense of familiarity within the site. In the project, I was working with a massive wall, a 15 Km long limestone barrier that framed the new limit and image of the city, a new territory conquered to the river. So it seemed natural to use the same material within the spaces that are carved into this striking structure, grounding them to the landscape. The new volumes, that cut through the ground and appear visible at the surface, continue this idea of mass. This helped me translate a sense of belonging between the intervention and site.




Maria Morais is a 24 year old architecture student from Lisbon, Portugal, who just completed her Master from the University of Lisbon (FAUL). In the past years she has worked with CHP Arquitectos and P0-6 Atelier, through curricular internships, allowing her to come to contact with a wide range of artistic references and spacial expressions, from the real practice of architecture to environmental design, museology and illustration. Tagus Baths – Spaces of Water and Light in Aterro da Boavista is her master’s Final Project.


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