Costa Cabral House is a clear example of how architecture adapts over time, responding to changing needs. Originally built in 1926 for a single family, and certainly inspired by the architecture of Raul Lino, it underwent interior and exterior alterations, although punctual, in the 50's and was later adapted, in 2000, to be a teaching institution in a more intrusive and decontextualized way.
Built on a narrow and long lot in a corner of one of the busiest streets in Porto, privacy was one of the client’s highest demands, and at the same time, it was important to relate to the surroundings through the creation of two different accesses. The house is detached from the street and has four fronts, allowing the creation of a perimeter path around it and, on the quieter side, a private backyard is created.
When the current owners acquired the house, it had a mixture of styles and fragmented spaces that demeaned it and made it difficult to perceive its potential. It was only after a careful analysis and study of the various overlaps that the architectural path to be followed became clear.
Originally, the house had a clear separation between ground floor and first floor, where the ground floor was supposedly a service area and the first floor housed the social and private areas of the house. In the 1950s, with the introduction of a new reinforced concrete staircase, the relationship between the two floors was narrowed, leading the ground floor to be used for social functions as well. Recently, there was no distinction between floors and both had been used for classrooms and restrooms.
It was now intended to adapt this featureless space, taking into account the owners specific requirements and reviving its original use – single family dwelling, harmonising the various overlapping changes. In that sense, it was decided that the social spaces should be accommodated on the ground floor, vacating the first floor for bedrooms and library. In addition to the separation between floors, the house established a longitudinal section on both floors, which defined a visual axis and allowed a clear separation of functions. This particular area was heavily adulterated in the 2000s, which lead to the creation of service spaces and restroom facilities here, both on ground floor and first floor, concentrating the hydraulic infrastructures. Structural and constructive elements, in particular interior and exterior carpentries, were preserved and rehabilitated, taking into account the overlapping of styles and periods. In this sense, architecture took advantage of all the juxtapositions and differences, assuming different materials and coatings on both floors, in order to preserve the memory of the previous separation between floors, characteristic of the original project. The façades were rehabilitated, preserving their patrimonial value. The grand reinforced concrete’s staircase was also rehabilitated, continuing to enrich the central part of the house with its presence.
In a building marked by different epoch’s sum of interventions, historical research followed by a careful analysis of the various constructive elements, allowed to preserve a constructive set of great patrimonial value, treasuring the building’s constructive elements, both original and acquired in later interventions, while ensuring an improvement in use and comfort conditions, fundamental preconditions for the clients.