Casas do manoel is the rehabilitation of a building whose original project dates back to 1937 and was constructed in the brink of a late modernity. The rehabilitation of this building results from the will to live in the center of Porto. It was not a conventional commission, but a self-proposed project and an exercise of a search, evaluation, project and construction, which aimed to re-adapt the almost empty building to an urban reality under deep transformation.
Located in a crowded corner of the center of Porto, this construction integrates a set of three identical buildings, that comply an interesting typology of corner buildings, that aired from a more informed housing investment logic, closer to the “income buildings” that proliferated in Lisbon some decades early. These typologies were developed during the occupation process of empty plots in this part of the city, such as gardens, agricultural plots and urban voids. These new buildings were marked by the time lag of the opened large avenues that, in a concentric away, connected the most recent city to the old one, working as links between the axes with centuries of construction and the transversal recent densified new streets.
Casas do Manoel’ set of buildings are characterized by an organization in thin plots, such as the defined by the Almadina’s extension of Porto’s city center. This soft metamorphosis, which is still defined by old constructive logics and occupation models, had gradually broken with the traditional logics of the old constructions, when new materials and solutions started to be used in a more common way. During that period, the introduction of metal and reinforced concrete structures and elements allowed the construction of higher and more delicate buildings with larger and generous openings, as well as the innovations in the decorative motives, changing deeply the relation of the buildings with their surroundings.
The rehabilitation and new distribution of Casas do Manoel has been thought following the simplicity and geometry of the building. The main characteristics have been maintained: the slender corridor kept its importance as an interior gallery and the stair case preserved the materiality and luminosity of when it was built. The new elements were defined by the presence of the old materials: the window’s metal frames, the wood finishes, the hydraulic mosaic and the marble sinks were repeated in new locations, shapes and textures. Some of these elements and materials were maintained almost without recuperation.
The natural difficulties founded in the restauration process of these extraordinary elements of common buildings, sometimes led to the option of interrupting the rehabilitation and preserving it untouched and unchanged. On that moments, the respect for the elements made by man and the will of using and appreciating it, got mixed with strange finishes, leading to a mimic that gives up of the analogy and distinguishes itself from the existing. By their character, the entrance, the stair case and the balconies are the places where this option became more evident. During this process that carefully used the existent recourses, the morphology and typology of the building allowed to adjust to the new distribution, with five apartments, instead of the former three, and actualize them to answer the actual comfort demands. In this regard, we sought for little intrusive and easily reversible interventions to make possible this new organization, that were related simultaneously to the notable constructive and decorative pre-existent elements influenced by the beaux arts late period.
The carried-out metamorphosis, outlined by the understanding of the configuration, needs, and consequent necessity of adaptation of this current building, led to a rehabilitation that tried to go further than the “simple rebuliding”, that respects the existent and older, but also that creates a new significance to the project and to the construction that it aimed to produce. Therefore, it contributes to preserve the collective memory of the place, maintaining the distinct ways of life that occupied and will occupy the building during the upcoming years.