Genius Loci

Better belated than never, here I come with a glimpse into a recent conference on places and meanings: Genius Loci, held at FLUP in late April. As if the programme was tailor-made to correspond with my latest research interests! The presentations within seven major thematic sections were organized in parallel sessions. And there lied a little problem: I simply couldn’t be at all presentations I wished to attend!

FLUP’s Department of Heritage Studies organized the event on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, together with its specialized body named CITCEM (standing for the Transdisciplinary Research Centre “Culture, Space and Memory”). The diverse areas covered ranged from sacred spaces, over heritage management issues to representations of vernacular and transitional worlds.

The atmosphere at FLUP was amazing: a river of curious people engaged in learning something new and passionate about knowledge exchange. I heard about creative geography of cinema, learned valuable facts about the spirit of Porto, about Portuguese architectural regionalist movements, got acquainted to theoretical approaches on walking as a mode of construction of place, on hybrid spaces and place-making. Some of that, actually, by serendipity, stumbling upon presentations: while waiting for the desired speeches, the others that were to attend in-between revealed themselves equally interesting!

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Last but not the least, the position and architecture of the FLUP’s building certainly contributed to the inspiring atmosphere of the event. The postmodern edifice is a work of Nuno Jennings Tasso de Sousa from the end of 1980s. It was designed for 4000 students, combining a myriad of open and covered spaces, carefully integrating the interplay of light and shade, and viewpoints leading the curious visitor to discover the surrounding cityscape and the architectural accents of the building itself.

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Casa do Infante

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).

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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