How rewarding was my recent visit to Casa do Infante, presently the Historical Archives of Porto!
Rewarding for two reasons: the form (an example of an architectural intervention with a great deal of sensibility), and the contents (possibility to find out so much about the city’s long history and urban development via the permanent exhibition, as well as enjoying temporary exhibition on German architecture of the 1950s).
Numerous transformations, all shown within the exhibition, have marked this building complex, dating from the 14th century. It is important to mention that it has much older structures underneath, duly researched and also duly displayed. The most important inhabitant of the house was D. Henrique (born there in 1394), a crucial character in the history of Portugal and its age of discoveries.
The latest restoration/transformation project, between 1998 and 2003, was lead by Nuno Jennings Tasso de Sousa (also well known for his design of the Faculty of Philology of Porto). Revisiting the previous intervention of Rogério de Azevedo from the 1960s, Tasso de Sousa implemented more contemporary understanding of conservation principles, exposing the historical layers of the house for educational purposes, introducing all the many contemporary elements needed for a state-of-the-art archives and respecting the principle of reversibility at all times. There is a lovely term he used to describe the intervention: that of “diachronic reading”.
And just to have an idea of the scope of work, the total area remodeled amounts to 7869 m2.
Here is the architect’s text with more details on the intervention: http://www.vitruvius.com.br/revistas/read/arquitextos/06.071/360