José James Forrester or “Douro’s farmer”, as he usually signed, was a farmer, wine producer, cartographer, photographer and artist.
Borne in Scotland in 1809, arrives in Porto in 1831 and for twelve years does a comprehensive mapping of the national Douro vale. In 1849 finishes a map of the Douro vale and after attaining public funds in London, the “Map of the Wine District of the Alto Douro”is published 1845; had , for over a century, several editions, including in Portuguese. In 1848 finishes the map of the “Douro Portuguez e Paiz Adjacente até Espanha”, also published in London.
Author of several drawings and maps of the Douro region, was a pioneer as a photographer documenting, as proof, his stories, with over a dozen published volumes. For all the achievements at the time, and valuable contributions on the persecution of the dream of the Douro River navigable regularly until the Spanish border, D. Fernando, during the minority of the king D. Pedro V, in 1855, gave him the title Baron of Forrester, an honour never yet conceded to a foreigner.
James Forrester was one of the protagonists of the fight towards the liberalization of commerce and the reduction of the rights charged by England. Devoted defender of the Porto wine, natural and completely fermented.
As a painter and designer, he recreates famous plans of the Douro region and is author of a famous watercolour untitled “Rua Nova dos Ingleses” where he was living, as many other renowned businessman. Today, that street is known as Rua do Infante D. Henrique, and the Forrester Building, the actual name of the number 75, now rehabilitated, where James Forrester most probably lived.
In 1906 the building was sold to Manoel Recarey de Antelo who executes a unique intervention on the ground-floor, as one can read on the statement delivered to the Porto City Hall in 1907. By then the ground-floor was occupied by storage areas and the remaining floors with offices and housing; in order to provide his building with the most modern requirements, Manoel Antelo builds a “window façade” with a metal structure and removes an interior granite masonry wall replacing it with beams and metal pillars (one of the first interventions of the genre in the city).
Since then, the building has suffered several alterations including the introduction of a metal structure.
A significant challenge: to rehabilitate a 19th century building at Porto’s historic centre, on a symbolic area such as the Infante Square, opposite to the Mercado Ferreira Borges and Bolsa Palace. The program’s focus was to transform the upper floors of the building and adapt them in order to receive an office floor and seven apartments, two with a duplex typology; to reconfigure the interior layout that faces the Infante Street (north) and has its back to the Douro river (south), without interfering with the structure or infra-structures (elevator) found when we began the intervention, a result of the different modifications the building has suffered. From these constraints, coupled with the specificity of the building, we have tried to balance both the uniqueness of the spatial characteristics of the 19th century construction and the introduction of modern elements, associated with contemporary living.
The office floor is the first floor, makes the transition between the dining establishment on the ground floor of the building, and the floors for housing; this allows the normal function of the restaurant to not reduce the comfort in the apartments.
On the second floor there is a three bedroom apartment strongly characterised by unique pre-existences, a room with decorative plaster finishes and an old and original cast iron fireplace, both restored and integrated within the contemporary solutions, but also, characterised by the possibility of a nice outside space that doesn’t change the original openings on the façade or damages in any way the south façade; a delicate metal structure and wood deck design a balcony.
On the third and fourth floors one can find two one bedroom apartments per floor; these apartments seek for the best space optimization and, simultaneously, take advantage of both building façades.
On the last two floors one can find two duplex apartments. These apartments, as all the others, enjoy both north and south façades of the building at the first floor of the duplex, and are facing east on the last floor. Their spatial organization assures a versatile character willing to answer to the contemporary way of living, always more diversified.
On the tile roof one chose to redesign a skylight analogous to the original.
At the façade, the determinant change has been the alteration of colours; it had a fundamental role the attention given to the tiles at the ground floor which make a sort of frame to the existing finish in elegant iron. At this tiles there is a base colour on the flowers and leaves represented which is the colour one chose to be the colour for the entire building – a very light beige (marfin), while for the iron elements the dry green-grey colour from the leaves, a very characteristic colour in Porto. This choice is opposite to the trend of painting all buildings on the squre with the same colour as the Market, taking its prominence.
At the finishes level, all common spaces where thought with dignity, making reference to the traditionally used materials in a contemporary way: the main stair and entrance have lacquered wood panels, silk-screened glass with reference to the Baron of Forrester, rigorous details and lightning. Its design allows the integration (to conceal) of all the contemporary necessities such as electric boards, meters and mail boxes.