Bartolomeu Dias Building

Lisbon, Portugal

2016 – 2019

This is an upstream project in a time when the city has been gradually emptied from its inhabitants under the pressure of tourism and real estate speculation. In this scenario, this is a project of resistance since it grows from the desire of a family to remain in its own neighbourhood, place for their closer relations. This will guided even the way the project was shaped.

A really small lot has to answer to the contemporary programmatic needs, not losing the relation of its building with the urban context, with the city and the street where it is placed. This continuity with the context can make the building seems quite anonymous, while a second glance gives the possibility to recognize the stratification of in the intervention: the overlay of the ampliation on the top of the original building.

Small and modest lots of uni or pluri-familiar typology still exist among the city. Their dimension makes them less appealing for the estate and therefore free to be stage for architectural operation as this.

Adapting the building to the new, contemporary needs -comfort, resistance and safety- requires strong programmatic creativity and adaptability, it requires the openness from the owner to experiment non common way of living. This building is thus an explicative example of how, the private initiative resolving its housing needs, can represent an important contribution for urban rehabilitation, maintaining the city’s plurality and identity, and so keeping the difficult balance with strong urban operations, surely less sensitive to the social context where they operate.

This is a modest and vacant building, bought by a family with the wish of rising their own home here.

The main façade overlooks Bartolomeu Dias street, an important axe running parallel to the riverside, that starts from Alcantara, crosses Belem’s monumental area and ends in Pedrouços street. This is a lively street, mostly residential, with some ground floor services and shops. The rear elevation, instead, overlooks Beco da Ré, a narrow and pedestrian street, surrounded by irregular blueprinted buildings. For its higher level of privacy, the inhabitants appropriate this street with chairs and drying clothes hanging outside, bringing in mind the typical atmosphere of the countryside villages. The difference of scale and use between the main road and the rear one stands out, becoming a driving line in the design process.

The building, 60 meters squares and two floors, is highly degraded, making the demolition of the whole inside mandatory.  In order to respond to the programmatic needs, specifically a permanent residence for a 5 members family, it was strictly needed to make a two floors ampliation, aligning the building volume with the dominant height of the built surrounding. The project aims at underling the contrast between the existing and the new. The new floors, indeed, uses a contemporary architectural expression, result of the new constructive technology, and creates dialogue with the existing ones. Therefore, the tension between two different construction times becomes the main identity trace for the building.

The internal spatial organization is reversed, going from more private spaces at the bottom floors to social ones at the top, in order to take advantage from the better view on the Tejo river. The living area is privileged, at the expense of the rooms, that has a more punctual use. So, the rooms are organized in the first two floors, and the living areas are organized in the last three ones. In this way, starting from the entrance and following the internal circulation of the staircase, the spaces are firstly more compartmentalized, then gradually becoming bigger and more open, culminating with the terrace, that is south-oriented and inserted in the two-pitched roof.

Along this same path, the relation with southern light and the river sight is a crescendo too. The position of the stairs in the different floors changes accordingly to the floor spatial organization needs, establishing double or triple height visual relation with the different floors.

In the main façade, at ground floor, the original tiles are restored and the typical “Lisbon green” is maintained in the doors and in the grids. The new openings are designed accordingly to the existing ones. The rear elevation is differently and autonomously composed, the openings gradually becomes wider, obtaining a better relation to the outside in the upper floors. The projecting veranda and the verde viana stone window, baptized “the green eye”, are the only exception in an elevation where the regularity, symmetry and relation with the context is the predominant character.

Project Bartolomeu Dias Building

Location Lisbon, Portugal

Client Private

Program Building reconstruction

Area 229 m2

Project Status Built

Date 2016–2019

Architecture Aurora Arquitectos

Architecture Team Sérgio Antunes, Sofia Reis Couto, Carolina Rocha, Bruno Pereira, Tânia Sousa, Rui Baltazar, Dora Jerbic.

Bulding Supervision Gesconsult

Engineering Zilva, Global, LDA

Construction Mestre Avelino

Photography do mal o menos