Top3Tuesday: José Forjaz

José Forjaz was born in Portugal and came to Mozambique in the early 1950’s. He trained at the Fine Arts School of Porto, received a Master’s degree from Columbia University, in New York and returned to Africa in 1968. After seven years practicing in Swaziland he returned, to Mozambique in 1975 to work with the newly independent country’s government as one of the half a dozen architects that remained after the exodus of the Portuguese. In 1985 Forjaz was given the task of structuring the first school of architecture and planning in the country and became its director until 2008. After teaching for several years as visiting professor in Italy and the US, Forjaz established a private practice office in Maputo, taking a wide range of tasks from architecture and urban planning to furniture, lighting and graphic design.

We were honoured and Forjaz was enthusiastic in sharing this Top 3 with us this month.

3Ryoanji Monastery in Kyoto (Asia)

© Jose Forjaz

For more than 500 years this stone garden is being combed to creative minutiae by the same monks that tend the forest to its fabricated naturalness. The intensity of this lifeless composition makes it the best place in the world to see the rocks grow. Stone and timber, mist and foliage exude taste and smell and the skin absorbs peace from the environment. Ise Shrine would, probably, sublimate these feelings but it is, unfortunately, out of bounds for the common mortal.

2The Pantheon of Rome (Europe)

© Jose Forjaz

The integration of spatial concept, structural wisdom and technical materialization has seldom produced a comparable masterpiece. I have seen the bright disk of sunlight moving silently across the void of the dome to illuminate the slightly curved pavement and rise to leave the drama of the oculus resolve the transition from the joy of the day to the sadness of dusk into the mystery of the night. I have, many times, perambulated the Pantheon, diminished by the presence of that telluric eruption and humbled by the responsibility of belonging to the guild of those that invent architectures.

1The Temple of Isis: Island of Philae in Egypt (Africa)

© Jose Forjaz

Even after the relocation to the present island site, this 2400 years old architectural complex recreates the irresistible fascination of petrified transcendental myths. Coming by boat, from Aswan, the lake gives the temple the isolation and the distance from the mundane that history deserves. The quality of the spaces, the volumes and the surface treatment is so impressive that the herculean effort required to build this monumental architecture is easily forgotten. This is, surely, one of the best examples of the play of light giving eternal life to the architectural exercise.