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  • Vasco Wemans

Architecture to me is identity and memory

Updated: May 13

Architecture goes beyond a simple shelter, otherwise it would just be construction. Architecture adds the answer to another need, which is no longer a matter of bodily shelter, but undoubtedly a central issue for the Human Being: identity.





Architecture, first and foremost, is a necessity. We all need shelter, but in addition to this need, we all dream of more. In addition to the burrow and the nest, which we also need as beings and animals, there is a specifically human need to also house the spirit and intellect, in a place that is a mirror of our life, of what we do and how we do it.

Far beyond the basic function of shelter since, as an old teacher of mine said, even a bunker serves this purpose, we need light, temperature, comfort... Architecture is born from the combination of these needs, to serve the basic purpose in the best possible way, making the best use of all factors - location, solar orientation, characteristics of construction and decoration materials - bringing together the art of drawing, design and the artist's vision. The architects vision.

Architecture goes beyond simple shelter, otherwise it would just be construction. Architecture adds the answer to another need, which is no longer a matter of bodily shelter, but undoubtedly a central issue for the Human Being: identity.


We cannot talk about identity without talking about memory, because although it is in the present that we live and in the present that we act, what we are goes far beyond. There is an enormous contribution from the successive events and actions of the past, which help in the construction of the identity of the present. Memory is, therefore, an essential factor for architecture because, without it, we do not recognize our identity, our culture, our history and our being.

We can observe in history the different architectures of different times and places, each with its own identity, marked by the time and space in which the people who built it were. Architecture is, therefore, what inserts in the construction the artistic capacity to integrate and include an identity. All projects are different in terms of their time and space, with an identity that is then engraved on the walls of the house.

Even when we recognize that there are undeniable qualities in a work, we may not always identify with it and, therefore, we may not want to inhabit it... Far beyond technique and mere construction, architecture is capturing an identity and translating it into drawing and then in space. The more identity a space has, the more livable it becomes, the more we feel welcomed by it.

We cannot talk about identity without talking about memory, because although it is in the present that we live and in the present that we act, what we are goes far beyond. There is an enormous contribution from the successive events and actions of the past, which help in the construction of the identity of the present. Memory is, therefore, an essential factor for architecture because, without it, we do not recognize our identity, our culture, our history and our being. Memory is the “guardian” of the identities we need, so that our projects aren't empty volumes of meaning and purpose.

This view may seem reductive, that architecture only involves capturing an identity, through the memory of a place, a community or even a specific client and, after this work is done, it is enough to translate it into spaces, volumes, plans and openings… can seem to limit creativity, looking at architecture in a mathematical way.


Going beyond the mere functionality of the shelter, built based on creativity and designing based on memory and being, architecture gains a central role in the culture of peoples, in people's identity and in the national image.

On the contrary, since we only act in the present, which is constantly evolving and is always new, we have to respond to this novelty. When almost everything is already defined at the outset, creativity takes on a more demanding, more stimulating and, above all, more central role.

Looking at this very characteristic form of architecture, it is unavoidable to talk about the architect Raul Lino, a scholar of Portuguese identity and the transposition of culture, past and present into work and art. I grew up observing with fascination three of his most important works - Casa do Cipreste, Casa dos Penedos and Casa Branca, in Azenhas do Mar. We can also talk about Fernando Távora, who masterfully reconciles the purity of geometric and contemporary shapes with great attention to the traditions and customs of each place, with its identity. Internationally, we see these characteristics in the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, in which one of the central concepts in the work he left us is that the project must be individual, according to its location and purpose.

Going beyond the mere functionality of the shelter, built based on creativity and designing based on memory and being, architecture gains a central role in the culture of peoples, in people's identity and in the national image.