The reconfiguration of this 19th century bourgeois house fully expresses, in fact, the poetic and naive graphic style that has made the Portuguese studio famous throughout the world. Thanks to their characteristic way of representing the project and to the use of one of their favorite materials, marble, this intervention takes on the role of a new declaration of intent for the Portuguese team.
Having become famous thanks to their immediate and essential collages, the architects describe their projects as «a medley of formal languages, references, quotations and metaphors; an architecture that is intuitive, rhetorical, hedonic and postmodern, all at the same time». The collages themselves – formed by an easily identifiable vocabulary that aims at the direct and simple transmission of a concept – represent one of the shaping tools of the project, slowly evolving together with the development of the idea.
When this workflow is completed, there is usually a correspondence with the latest version of the collage, and somehow the photographic images are almost perfectly overlapping to the representation of the idea. This is what happens in Rua do Paraíso. Here the single-family residential building – a typical two-story Portuguese house, blind on two sides, the result of humble and unpretentious urban architecture – was divided by the young architects into four almost identical living spaces, sharing common circulation areas and a private courtyard. «The project happens within a given system of constraints, aiming at an unexpected complexity, finding interest within a very banal set of decisions», the Fala team explains.
The front façade of the project has been left almost unchanged. The only adopted solutions involved the replacement of the original cladding tiles with shiny green marble slabs, which contrast with the roughness of the pre-existing granite frames, and the addition of a small circle of white marble to balance the composition.
The combination of contrasting elements, typical of the Fala atelier style, also recurs in the unorthodox interiors, enclosed in turn between two opposite façades. If on the one hand the rooms of the four studio apartments vary in size, shape and orientation, on the other, they share a coherent language, whose syntax and grammar are clearly defined by a few measured elements. The stepped wall, the curved surface, the two doors (one pink, the other green), the striped wooden floor are the “morphemes” – as the team defines them – of the project: a distinct number of independent architectural elements recurring in each of these spaces and defining their composition. The stepped wall determines the organization and functioning of the kitchen and the bathroom, the two doors define the entrance and the hidden bathroom, while the striped surface of the floor and the curved surface help to expand the apartment and to define the composition of the windows. It is precisely the skillful play of these shapes that makes the architectural language of the Portuguese firm simple and unique.
However, the main element of the project is probably the rear façade of the building, which has been completely rebuilt, raised to adapt to the scale of the adjacent buildings and covered with white, green and black marble slabs. This front, although not representing a completely public expression of the building – as it overlooks the private garden –, is a recognizable sign in the urban landscape of Porto, a colorful cutout in the romantic capital do norte. The flat and smooth surface, interrupted only by two square windows that frame the interiors, has a bold pattern of polychrome vertical stripes that give it a rich appearance, almost a reference to Italian Renaissance architecture. The pattern thus defined hides the entrance door to the garden, while on the roof there is another circle – this time in brass – crowning the façade. This purely ornamental element represents a necessary exception in the otherwise extremely regular composition of the front. The motif of the façade masks the size of the building and its playful exuberance makes it an object of curiosity for the neighbors, a main front for private use.
The project created for the House in Rua do Paraíso – emblematic of the architectural experimentation of the Portuguese atelier, which ranges from urban-scale projects to birdhouses – is an expression of the time we live in: the essentiality of the spaces and the tensions that arise among the contrasting architectural elements reflect the complexities and contradictions of the contemporary era, making this house a proper piece of modern art.