Rehabilitation of a 18Th Century Townhouse
Honourable Mention in Premio Joao de Almada 2012
The building to be renovated and restored, corresponds to the typical townhouse model for Oporto's middle class bourgeoisie from the 18th century. Around 1762, rationalist urban concepts were introduced in the city by Joao de Almada. After defining the main axes of expansion of the city, the public space, its streets, the plots and even the facades were previously designed in the City Council's Urbanism Department. The housing blocks were formed by a dense sequence of row houses, with an average building plot of 6-8m wide and 18-20 long. This created a model that will define the housing construction throughout the 18th and 19th century in Porto, which is defined in it's exterior by the standardization of the dimension of the windows and doors, but also the standardization of building parts and ornaments, like the granite balconies or the cast iron guardrails.
All these elements could still be found in this house in Rua do Pinheiro, but also the typical vertical circulation, which is a stairwell in the centre of the plot, illuminated by a dome-shaped skylight. Originally this house was designed for one big family, with different rooms along the staircase, that could be for different family members and a kitchen in the last floor. The toilets were in the rear façade with an access from the balcony. In the ground floor there were a space for a shop or small business.
The main challenge of this project was to readapt the original architecture to a new use and program, which in this case was the creation of 4 or 5 independent apartments. Having decided to restore the main staircase, the only solution was to have apartments that face either the garden or the street. The apartments to the street had only one façade, but the others facing the garden, were longer and had and extra window to the West. But in both cases, the apartments were not so big and had a rigid spatial structure. The next step was to create duplex apartments, creating different solutions and typologies and allowing more privacy, especially acoustically, since we kept the old timber structure as slabs. We could then offer some variety of living spaces, namely 3 Duplex apartments ( 2 T1, 1 T2), one Studio apartment and one office space in the ground floor. The next challenge was the introduction of kitchen, internal staircases and toilets and trying to keep or interpret the original proportions of these rooms. The interior rooms, that used to be illuminated and ventilated by the stairwell, were redesigned as cabinets where kitchen, toilets and inner staircases were either hidden or displayed, depending on the way the user has the opening of the cabinet. With this strategy, I managed to keep the original proportions of the main rooms and have the water areas concentrated along the stairwell, receiving ventilation and natural light.
Considering the construction details, my option was to respect the existing language and in some cases redo missing building parts, like one iron guardrail or the wooden doorhandles. On the other hand, a new language was introduced, when designing the attic, that was completely ruined or the metal staircase in one of the apartments, where the existing inner walls were also destroyed and a different typology was proposed. Although using contemporary spatial solutions or materials, my strategy was always in the sense of the integration and not in the sense of the contraposition or contrast. Above all, the main challenge was to demonstrate, that it is possible to propose new housing solutions within the typical 18th and 19th house of Porto (and there and hundreds of them falling to pieces) , that respect it's original architecture both outside and inside.
Location: Rua do Pinheiro, 71/75, Porto
Project design and building: 2008 - 2011
Budget: 200,000 €
Gross Floor Area: 480 m2
Landscape architecture consultants: Noemie Pons Robardt and António Moreira