Álvaro Siza & Sahel Al-HiyariMeetings

Published in 2003icon-clockTime to read: 4m55s

One of the world’s greatest architects, Alvaro Siza from Portugal, and a young Jordanian architect, Sahel Al-Hiyari, found common ground in their views on the theory and practice of architecture, which enhanced their many intense discussions and outings, especially to visit Siza’s groundbreaking works.

by Rolex Mentor and Protégé2003
  • Álvaro Siza
    The Mentor
  • Sahel Al-Hiyari
    The Protégé

Getting acquainted

Siza and Al-Hiyari’s first session as mentor and protégé took place in September 2002, in Oporto, where Siza makes his home. Work began with the pair discussing the nature of architecture. Mentor and protégé soon discovered that they had similar views on the theory and practice of architecture.

Siza’s body of work

Providing maps of sites to visit and preparing introductions to clients, contractors, other architects, Siza made sure that Al-Hiyari’s hours on his own would be well spent. One day, mentor and protégé took a field trip to several of Siza’s projects nearby, where they noted in passing such glamorous minutiae as leaks and cracks, reminders of the perpetual shadow that falls between conception and creation.

Interchange and architecture

But their most memorable hours were spent in reflection on the nature and the purpose of the work they do. “We both like to talk about architecture,” Siza says simply, during Al-Hiyari’s second short residency in Portugal, in November 2002. “We have been talking about the approach to building a house for a family. Architecture always develops through interchange. The great danger is to lapse into routine.”

Daily meetings

Meetings continued in November 2002, when the pair met in Oporto and also travelled to Lisbon to view one of Siza’s projects. The pair met, often on a daily basis, in February, late March, May and June. In March, Siza reviewed a competition entry by Al-Hiyari for two 20-storey towers for residential use in Kuwait City a competition that Al-Hiyari ultimately won.

Professional Impact

After being selected for the programme, Al-Hiyari was included in an Architectural Record feature article on the year’s top young architects (December 2002) and was profiled in the magazine Architecture +, published in Dubai. An invitation to participate in the design competition for the Kuwait City apartments came as a direct result of the Architectural Record article.

Personal Impact

“The more I get to know Siza,” Al Hiyari says, “the more I like him as a person. He really is wonderful.” Although the pair spent much of their time discussing the theory of architecture, they also looked closely at the details of buildings and reviewed Al-Hiyari’s designs for his current projects. “His feedback on my works has been very thought provoking and constructive,” Al-Hiyari comments. “It is carried out with a clarity and simplicity that only a person with a great mind is capable of”.


Rolex Mentor and Protégé