A family with three children asked Sofia Couto and Sérgio Antunes, who founded Aurora Arquitectos in Lisbon in 2010, to renovate and expand a building in Belém where they wanted their home.
The property is located on Rua Bartolomeu Dias, an important road parallel to the Tagus River that ends at Belém cultural center designed by Vittorio Gregotti with Portuguese architect Manuel Salgado: A part of the city that may have been less subject to speculative development for tourism due to its remote location, a residential area with many shops and services. The rear of the house opens to Beco da Ré, a narrow U-shaped pedestrian street surrounded by the irregular rear ends of the workers’ apartments. The volume is part of a dense curtain of buildings of different heights, in which Renovated buildings alternate with vacant lots Waiting for development.
As everywhere in Lisbon, the neighborhood has its ‘azulejos’, the famous colorful decorative tiles that cover buildings of different ages in the city. Azulejos have now become a contradiction in terms: they are sold at high prices (and in local markets at lower prices) by the city’s antique dealers, are often stolen and cannot be adequately protected. Since they are considered the unofficial symbol of the city of Lisbon, owners of buildings with azulejos require permission, under a recently introduced law, to remove them even from non-listed buildings.
A wall of azulejos is one of the reasons Aurora Arquitectos customers bought this rundown building to renovate and make it their home. They opted to maintain and restore the tiled facade on two levels while demolishing and completely redesigning the interior of the house, reducing it to irreparable condition and building three additional levels to accommodate additional new functions.
The customers’ decision to renovate and move into the neighborhood triggers a necessary digression about the Real estate market in Lisbon in recent years. For decades the city was considered Europe’s capital of decay with many abandoned buildings and unsafe neighborhoods where tourists were advised not to venture out, a sort of borderland between Western culture and North Africa. But now Lisbon has become the center of massive real estate speculation as a result of rent liberalization, which is boosting the city’s real estate market. The city is in a radical legacy transformation as significant amounts of capital are arriving, the majority of which is geared towards rapid renovations to serve the vacation rental market. The direct result was the displacement of former residents and the gentrification of many parts of the city.
But luckily there is one too opposite trend among those who, like the customers in the project examined here, buy and restore buildings in order to live out of affection for their homeland. Aurora Arquitectos’ project mediates between the historical identity of the building and the functional requirements of contemporary life, restoring the building’s facade along with the original azulejos, string courses and window frames, three on each level, keeping the rhythm that the Road marks, is retained. The back, which has no particular prestige elements, is covered with simple white plaster. The three-story extension is treated in the same way, clearly differentiated from the lower levels to show the layering of the building’s history while maintaining the size that dominates among the buildings on the street.
The main entrance, which is still on Rua Bartolomeu Dias, leads to semi-public spaces: the entrance and the children’s play area with large windows and direct access to the Beco da Ré. As an internal pedestrian zone The street is used by residents to sit outside or to hang up their laundryMaintaining an intimate atmosphere of shared space and strengthened bonds.
In a sense, the first floor closes the house off from the main road as it faces the back alley so the kids can go outside and experience continuity between the family home and the neighborhood. The first floor, with no overhang, contains the bedrooms while The three upper levels significantly change the relationship between the house and its surroundings. Here the windows are larger and no longer correspond to the formal grid that characterizes the lower levels. At the rear of the building, new openings are being created with a small balcony and a large terrace in the attic. The architects reversed the usual order of spatial functions in the house and brought the living area upstairs to give it a visual relationship to the surrounding landscape. The project combines the view of the rooftops in the neighborhood, the Tagus and activities on its distant banks, in short the contemplative dimensionwith everyday activities at home that form the backdrop for them. Due to the internal layout of the house, the rooms below are more subdivided and then open up as the building rises. The two-story high rooms culminate in the south-facing terrace, which is fitted into the gable roof. The relationship between the building and light is also strengthened when the house rises: As can be seen in the cross-section of the house, the stairwell runs through the entire building from street level to the roof and creates a channel that lets light and air into the rooms House and expands the spatial perception of the floors, which actually measure only 60 square meters.
More interesting solutions give the project its special identity: a window green Viana skirt (a gleaming Portuguese marble), nicknamed “the green eye”, in the dining room overlooking the river, as well the bridge” built above the stairwell so that residents can secretly watch people enter the house, and a Fire mast Direct connection of the children’s room with the playroom on the ground floor.
Like the plastered exterior of the building, the interiors are a “blank sheet” that underlines the contrast between the historical shell of the building and its contemporary extension. Cupboards and compartments created in the walls create a modern space in perfect harmony with the requirements of a large family for order and flexibility. Natural wood floors and prestigious details on the handrails complete the minimalist but precise interior design of the house.
The project shows that there is an alternative to viewing the past as an uncomfortable burden or as a basis for negotiation in the market: an alternative that involves building a bridge to history and enabling a form of urban renewal in which The local identity becomes part of a constantly evolving present.
Architects: Aurora Architects
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Area: 229 sqm
Team of architects: Sérgio Antunes, Sofia Reis Couto, Carolina Rocha, Bruno Pereira, Tânia Sousa, Rui Baltazar and Dora Jerbic.
Bulding supervision: Gesconsult
Engineering: Zilva, global, lda
Construction: Mestre Avelino
Photography: © Do mal o menos