Souto de Moura was not even thirty years old when he built the Braga market in the 1980s. It was a very straightforward structure consisting of a large horizontal concrete slab resting on top of a colonnade and some stone walls underneath; it was somewhat of a cross between a recently abandoned piece of infrastructure and a recovered old ruin. At the time, he was already intensely out of fashion, having developed his individual path at the height of postmodernism. Looking back from our current vantage point, such a building may seem normal, but it takes a courageous and mature architect to resist his or her period’s dominant mannerisms.
Even though the architectural language was able to stand the test of time, the dynamics of the city affected the use of the market, as the lack of parking was one of the most important reasons for its decline as a commercial space.
Souto de Moura was then called to find alternative uses for this market, which he did by converting it into a cultural center. What is most striking is the freedom with which Souto de Moura dealt with the challenge. Instead of a nostalgic defense of his opera prima, he went on to propose the demolition of the roof. Through a reversed operation in which what used to look like infrastructure became a kind of old ruin and the walls became a support for new uses, he was able infuse new life into the place. This is not only a fresh, out-of-the-box approach that broadens the gamut of possibilities when recycling our built environment. At a time when formal choices are made to celebrate the client’s power and/or money or even worse the architect’s ego, it is great to find an architect whose choices are still guided by what he or she considers the best response to the question he or she has been asked. It takes a courageous and mature architect to approach his or her own personal work with such freedom—not only in building little, but even going so far as to demolish his or her own work as a response to a demand. Less is the new more.