Instagram would have you believe that Porto is all Baroque tiles and towers — and to be fair, a lot of it is. A boom in tourism has revitalised the old city centre after decades of depopulation and dereliction. New businesses and cafes are popping up, restoring the oldest buildings and polishing the azulejo facades that visitors love.
But let’s not overlook the work that went into this boom: the years of investment, beginning with Porto’s designation as a 2001 European Culture Capital; the cultivation of homegrown architectural talent at the Porto School of Architecture (with Pritzker-winning alumnae like Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura); and the efforts to elevate new infrastructure with designs from the international greats. Kengo Kuma and Associates in collaboration with OODA, for example, won a competition in 2018 to transform the Porto Slaughterhouse, which has been abandoned for 20 years, into spaces for art, performance, and archives under an undulating ceramic roof.
Porto has seen museums, concert halls, and an entire metro system join its churches and bookshops as architectural highlights in the past 25 years, and it’s keeping the momentum up. Local practices overflow with restorations and reclamations as boutique hotels or private homes make the most of the unusual spaces offered by Porto’s old centre. The larger projects tend to be a mix of residential and new hotels — while civic works try to walk the line between catering for the tourist boom and creating good spaces for locals.
Here, we compile a selection of architectural projects catering to this renewed interest in Porto
The Interpretation Centre of the Romanesque, Lousada, by Spaceworkers
The Romanesque heritage of Northern Portugal is celebrated by the contents of this museum as well as the space itself. Each of the seven towers represents a different way Romanesque buildings used their space, from great vaults and arches to small side chapels.
House In Rua do Paraíso by Fala
A classic 19th century Porto house — narrow to minimise property tax — the renovation’s green marble expresses the same richness as the tiled facade would have done, making the most of the unusual volumes. The vivid geometric stripes and circles outside continue in the interior, comprising four studio flats and a common garden.
Monverde Wine Experience Hotel, Amarante, by Fernando Coelho
Upriver from Porto, this carbon-neutral hotel and winery recently expanded, adding a new wing of granite and pine guest rooms half submerged under a network of vine trellises. The terraces and flat roofs blend into the vines, while the interior’s soft greens and glass walls bring views of the Douro Valley right up to you.
Museums of Santo Tirso by Álvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura
The Monastery of São Bento, a little way from central Porto, is a 17th century beauty that houses the Municipal Museum of Abade Pedrosa. An added wing contains the International Contemporary Sculpture Museum. The project is a total collaboration: between Vieira and de Moura, between the restored Baroque and the minimal new wing, and between the local heritage of one museum and the international sculpture of the second.
Urbo Business Centre by Nuno Capa Arquitecto
The hub for offices and services in central Porto is wrapped in a geometric concrete facade. The scheme is centred on a foyer that’s more like a forum.
429 Foz Housing by dEMM Arquitecto
This close to the Atlantic, Porto is built sturdier. This is a residential project that frames its balconies with views of the sea. At the same time, 429 Foz Housing provides plenty of bulk to shelter behind.
Alferes Malheiro Building by Franca Arquitectura
This difficult multilevel corner project fits nine flats beneath a skyline that mimics Porto’s towers and behind perforated metal facades that nod to the tiled surroundings, while also allowing ultra energy efficiency.
Liquid Pavilion, Serralves Foundation, by Depa
On the grounds of the celebrated 1999 Serralves contemporary art museum, the pavilion takes the museum’s layout and reconfigures it into this mirrored shadow. The dark glass reflects the foliage and water around it, creating a barely-there space that’s neutral enough to let the films screened inside speak for themselves.
São João de Deus Phases I and II by Brandao Costa and Domus Social
Nicknamed ‘Tarrafel’ after the vicious 1930s prison camp, the neighbourhood of São João de Deus has a poor reputation. Originally built similarly to British garden cities, the project aims to restore spaces lost to newly-demolished tower blocks. New social housing is accompanied by reconstruction of the original homes, set in landscaping aimed at bringing the sprawling neighbourhood into a relationship.
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