Rua José Falcão 199

The José Falcão street is often on my way: the office is situated almost around the corner and the number 199 can’t remain unnoticed: the neo-arab building with a fascinating façade in the middle of Porto stands out, even if it is clad with azulejos like so many other historical houses there. Azulejos are exactly the keyword to understanding the existence of such an edifice: the house number 199 was once the ceramics warehouse of the important Devesas factory, situated in Vila Nova de Gaia.

I entered there once or twice before, thanks to the friends’ recommendation – a very good restaurant occupies a part of the ground floor. But a few days ago, I had an opportunity to learn more about it. On the occasion of the European Heritage Days (this year’s theme was industrial and technical heritage), a guided tour was organized by the municipal Culture department about artifacts of ceramics industry in Porto. The starting point – José Falcão street, 199.

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The representative façades of this building, dating from the beginning of the 20th century, were meant to demonstrate the vast array of ceramic elements that could be produced in the Devesas factory. The façade design has been attributed to José Joaquim Teixeira Lopes (1837-1918), sculptor, dedicated mainly to ceramics, and the co-founder of the factory. Teixeira Lopes was, on the one hand, inspired by the Moroccan architecture and on the other, by classical mythology: that can be seen at the other façade, towards the Conceição street. Even if not very consistent in terms of architectural styles, the building does show the whole range of available approaches to ceramics production (I admit, it didn’t occur to me until the guided visit that those façades were part of the same building).

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I was enchanted to see the inner courtyard, hidden from the eyes of passers-by and isolated from the street noise: another characteristic of traditional Moroccan residential architecture, now belonging to an exclusive restaurant whose spaces unfold behind the iron gate painted in an unlucky combination of red and silver.

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And the two interiors towards the José Falcão street, belonging to the Comme Ça restaurant and an abandoned moto – disco – bar, are both creative and inspiring in their own, particular way. So representative of diversities and differences coexisting happily in Porto!

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Quinta do Santiago: learning through experience

Among the many palaces I was lucky to visit over years, discovering Quinta do Santiago in Leça da Palmeira some weeks ago was by far the most imaginative and memorable experience. And I think experience is the keyword here! Not the investment or state-of-the-art equipment, because this cost just some good will, creativity and an elegant suit (but no, the visitors were not expected to be in suits).

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The strange visiting hours were the first twist, as we were supposed to appear (in whichever clothes) at 9.30 p.m. And then, we became part of a play! One of the three organized in Quinta de Santiago in a year. This time, the charismatic Joel Cleto was the main character, and the play was about him as an elegantly dressed butler, leading us through the noble family’s house. Revealing its secrets, Cleto was intertwining stories about the family members, urban history of Leça and building of the great port of Leixões, and the broader context of Portuguese history.

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The palace was interesting anyway, researched and restored carefully, but no written or audio guide could compare to this way of telling the story, nor inform so well. And the great thing is, Joel Cleto is an expert, in acting as much as in history & heritage.

By the way, the house was built in eclectic style by the Italian architect Nicola Bigaglia in late 19th century. The architect just gave proper form to the ideas of the owner, João Santiago de Carvalho e Sousa, who was educated in fine arts. And obviously passionate about every little detail of his home!

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For example, the house has an excellent ventilation system, so besides being pleasing for the eye and the sense of touch (photos cannot reproduce the variety of materials and textures used!), it is also very fresh and dry and simply … lacks that smell of old houses where windows are rarely open!

The old photo of the owner comes from here: http://en.cm-matosinhos.pt/PageGen.aspx?WMCM_PaginaId=27819

In regard to the insider views from the event, I called M. for photos! A big, big thanks*

 

Porto, the bank of materials.

The Bank of Materials of Porto is one of the newest initiatives of the city authorities in the realm of built heritage. It was opened in 2010, with the idea to collect the repetitive elements from the Porto façades: the ones being in disrepair, or the ones about to be demolished or modified. If a citizen needs to rehabilitate a façade, the Bank of materials provides them exemplars of the repetitive elements (be it tiles, stucco, stone or cast iron details) at no cost at all.

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Not only this is useful in restoration of built heritage, but it’s also enchanting to see examples of materials used for construction and decoration in Porto over centuries, all at one place! Most of the exhibits are ceramics and tiles, dating from 15th century to the recent times, but there are also hundreds of stuccoes, various wooden, stone and iron artifacts. Such as ancient street or commerce name plaques, that were duly saved (while many of them actually still proudly remain on the buildings).

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Porto is the city of respect for the things old, I deduce!

Many thanks to Zé for this discovery 🙂

Porcelain print.

For some reason, the beloved azulejos have overwhelmed the fashion designers these days. And it’s obviously not limited to Portuguese fashion:

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The trend is called “porcelain print”, and well, the ladies look just as if they stepped out of some traditional building façade in Portugal (or popped out of one of those tall Chinese vases, or Netherland’s blue-white tiled panels maybe). Let’s see how much people really care about this next summer in the Portuguese streets and squares!

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Azulejarias and calcadas of Eduardo Nery

It seems that Lisbon metro is much more than just an infrastructure that gets you efficiently from A to B. Among a number of artists who were commissioned to give their touch to the metro stations there ever since 1950s, the biggest scope of work  belongs to the lady named Maria Keil. Her work was particularly important for reintroduction of interest in azulejo in the contemporary context, since it was not so much used in the 19th and first decades of 20th century.

Another artist who also had commissions from the Lisbon metro company turns out to be particularly interesting for me: Eduardo Nery (1938-2013). Nery was working with decomposition of historical azulejos and these panels can be seen at the Campo Grande metro station. Those works are from the 1990s.

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The same line of thought was developed at his panel for the EPAL building in Lisbon, from the same period.

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Here I also enclose a photo of Praça da Município in Lisbon (he was very active with his interventions in public spaces). In this work from 1997-1998 period, he merged his Op-Art background and the possibilities of traditional calçada portuguesa (the cobblestone paving).

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Something to be researched in detail in the future, I think.