Anatomical Manipulation


“The images are handmade multi-authored representations of what we call anatomical manipulation, where specific architectural elements are tested in relation to a specific site or existing building, to whom which they are deeply related. Pictures taken whit the iPhone in site visits are printed to be cutted, painted on, draw, etc.. in a participatory process of the various elements of the office where everyone can suggest and/or act directly on the piece to add or correct information. We believe there is a great energy in this manual process. The result represents moments of conviction that will later became the foundation of the building, hanging on the wall as a constant reminder while the next steps are taken to develop the project.”

Walls inside Walls inside Walls [Refurbishment . Faro 2017]

Various layers of walls construct the experience of the house, even before one sees it. A defensive wall defines the city center where the house sits. It´s marks and textures became the testimony various accumulated times, constantly destroyed and overwritten. Then, two facades to be preserved mark the corner of one of the oldest streets. Inside them, only partition walls organize the various living spaces. All three layers share a sense of incompleteness, visual permeability and material truthiness that seems to connect them. Perhaps such aspects should remain, in a way.

The necessary demolition and substitution of the interior walls shouldn’t be synonym of an intrusive new system for the division of space. The proposed interior walls are set exactly where their predecessors stood, preserving a sense of organisation that was proven coherent. Some were removed to give space for the house´s new purpose, but have left their mark on the floors, in contrasting stone, as if celebrating their past existence. The interior spaces became then a narrative constructed of new and old, visible and invisible walls where different times can be read, similar to the feeling one has while walking alongside the castle walls.

From White Elements to Wood Elements [Refurbishment . Vila do Bispo 2017]

Two small houses in the center of a small village were combined so they would be a slightly larger house. As a result, they now confine a very narrow and long space that could only expand vertically.

In the center, where once stood the division between the two houses, a white and wood structure is proposed, clearly marking the two social spaces: living room to the North, kitchen to the South, each with an independent entrance, connected trough a passage beneath the central element. Private areas are organised above, expanding both vertically as well as horizontally, gradually transitioning from white, opaque and thick elements to wood, permeable and slim elements, as if trying to escape the whiteness that covers the village streets. Each level is then a unique experience of the voids that connect to the social areas, providing more or less light, more or less privacy, more or less views to the outside.


Who influences you graphically?

These particular drawings and models correspond mostly to the beginning of a project, as spontaneous externalisations of a mental processes, so they are rather free from graphic preoccupations, and therefore, specific references. The main aspect to them is to concisely explain a specific idea to be shared with the team. Having said that, im sure Christo´s crayon drawings, RCR´s watercolours, Basquiat´s combination of graffiti-like words and drawings, Helena de Almeida´s use of photography and paint, as well as many others, play an important role in our work, mostly at a conceptual level but inevitably at a graphical one as well, even if subconsciously.

To what extend do you trust in the drawing as a site for experimentation and the development of a project? How do they reflect the singular and collective intension of the practice?

As a young practice, when given the possibility to build something, we became quite overwhelmed with this idea of reality, of acting within a specific context. In that sense, solely drawing seemed to be insufficient as a tool to clearly depict that reality along with a conceptual intention towards it, specially because we are not so virtuous. The inclusion of an image, a photo from the site or building to be intervened, combined with drawing and writing became a useful combination of mediums, capable of containing more accurately the amount of information circulating around the project. To start a collective discussion with the use of a photo (or various copies) that would be gradually marked, cut, written on, etc. by each member of the team around the table, enhanced this idea that we were, in someway, acting and experimenting directly with our hands within the specificity of the context, grounding the project to the site.

What is your take on the architectural montage?

The current common practice of the architectural montage seems to attempt to depict both concept and spatial configuration into a single collage-like image, making use of scenarios and characters from traditional paintings. Along with that effort, such practice commonly fails to address fundamental aspects to the production of architecture (light, shadows, textural behaviour, depth, context, etc.) in favour of a simple graphical communication of borrowed elements, that ultimately, homogenises authorship as many seem to share Hockney´s characters and/or Rousseau´s gardens, for example.

We highly value the sense of emotional depth and personalisation that comes from thinking and making marks with the hands, of approaching the specificity of a project in that manner. Our drawings are only a synthesis of an idea, closed enough so we can understand its principles, but with a sense of openness to pursue various forms of spatial construction that need, inevitably, to be tested in other mediums, such as models and realistic renders.

What role does the model play?

Models are a natural course of action after a convincing drawing/text. They allow us to test the spatial possibilities of a certain idea, even if in a conceptual level still. Conceptual models follow the same process as the drawings, they don’t have a specific scale yet, only a spontaneous notion of proportions and rhythm. Continuing with the idea of reality we´ve pursued with the drawings by the inclusion of photos, quite commonly we make use of physical fragments from the site and incorporate them in the models, both for their textural value as well as for their memorial one as well.

You define yourself as an atelier which operates at the threshold of art & architecture- could you develop this further?

We are quite interested in understanding what constitutes each of the disciplines as two separate entities, as well as how we can work within their boundary, blurring it.

Its seems that what differentiates them is the notion of function: art is purely an aesthetic experience as architecture combines those aesthetic values with a practical purpose. In that sense, the image of the ruin becomes fascinating because its difficult to categorize – it is architecture in the sense that was built with a functional purpose that was lost over time, and because of that it can be appreciated solely by its formal expression, such as a sculpture. The ruin, as a concept, is frequently a part of our practice. The project “architectural (dis)order” is clearly intended to be an abstraction of a ruin as it arranges the three common classical elements (architrave, column and podium) separately inside a white box. Perhaps they could compose a sculptural piece inside a gallery, but they are in fact functional as pieces of furniture, cabinets for books and personal objects. In this sense, the categorisation of this project seems to depend directly on the fact that someone acctually uses these cabinets. We find that boundary quite charming and intriguing.

What is our take on the colour white?

Working mostly in the South of Portugal, white has to us both a traditional value as much as a conceptual one. Our surrounding built landscape is mostly cubic and white, which creates a wonderfull effect with the specificity of the southern sun light, something quite unique and dear to us.

If in the first projects  we´ve used white in the same manner as Siza or Aires Mateus do (to enhance the abstract values of a certain formal composition), lately we´ve been shifting to a more generic use, as background that puts to evidence other elements with contrasting materialities.


Corpo is an architecture & art studio focused on the exploration and expansion of the architectural anatomy, founded by Filipe Paixão in Vilamoura, southern Portugal.