Habitation in Rua Das Aldas BY NPS Arquitectos



Rua das Aldas, Porto, Portugal

The building is located in Rua das Aldas, in the historic center of Porto city. The area where the building is located, Morro da Sé/Pena Ventosa, represents one of the first settlements that started the urban process of the city of Porto. The city block where the lot is located is inside the ancient city wall and near the Cathedral of Porto. The building, possibly of the beginning of the 19th century, is part of a consolidated city block and is aligned between two streets, the Travessa da Pena Ventosa e a Rua das Aldas. Because the building’s adaptation to the topography of the land and it’s entire lot occupation, the first two floors of the Travessa da Pena Ventosa only have one urban front, due to a difference of 6,0m height between the streets. This results in a volume of four floors to the Rua das Aldas and six floors to the Travessa da pena Ventosa. The lot has 5.0m of front and 13.6m of depth, presenting an irregular rectangular configuration. The simplicity of the constructive elements and materials applied, the language of the architectural elements, the organization and spatial distribution, and the almost inexistence of decorative elements, depicts a sober and discreet construction. At the time of designing the project, the habitability conditions of the building were very weak. The pavement and roof structures had partial rebates, with even collapsed and lacunar areas. The process of infiltration of rainwater was accentuated, deteriorating the ceilings, floors and walls. Humidity by rising capillarity enabled the detachment of wall mortars. To aggravate the salubrious conditions, the ventilation of the interior spaces, in most cases, was simply non-existent. In addition, architectural factors, such as anti-regulatory footings, compartments without natural light and steps with impractical dimensions, as well as the weakness of infrastructures, in particular electrical installations, also contributed to the fragile conditions.
The demand of the owner consisted on the introduction of the maximum possible apartments for shortterm accommodation with common service spaces and a housing for himself in the last floor.
Given the constraints of the existing situation, the reduced artistic values of the architectural elements and the owner’s demand, the path that seemed most appropriated slipped in a facade approach. Thus, it urged the need to control this impetus, as well as to resist the temptation of the new real estate currently present in the process of urban rehabilitation in the city of Porto. Mezzanines and cubic modules would not be adequated solutions, because we felt that they would reinforce this facade attitude. In this way, due to the obligatory need to completely demolish the interior of the building and the respective architectural updating, it was decided to maintain the organization and original spatial distribution, for the same number of floors, for the same number of housing units and the same construction area. The maintenance of these assumptions ensured an attitude of responsibility. Only the volumetry of the last floor underwent a slight alteration, with the introduction of a dormer window to take advantage of the spatial relations between interior and exterior. This change was duly negotiated with the competent entities to minimize the impact with the surroundings. To minimize the facade attitude, the position of the new floor slabs was determined by the exterior windows that remained unchanged. As previously mentioned, the interior spaces, now with regulatory heights, respect the typical spatial organization with the stairs taking center position and the larger spaces positioned next to the facades. The distribution stairs functions as a central core and is associated with kitchens and sanitary facilities, thus optimizing all infrastructures. This massive concrete core has the importance of being the structural element on which all floor slabs discharge, thus freeing the other spaces from the presence of structural elements. In contrast to the conservation of the facades and roofing, the contemporaneity of the intervention is assumed in the materiality of the staircase and in the interior spaces. The concrete staircase acquires plasticity not only through its color and texture, but also through the introduction of architectonic elements with patterns, either natural, either geometric, inspired by traditional tiles.
The spatiality of the distribution stairs is made through the plasticity of the concrete used in the walls and ceilings, and the mortar craft of the floors, revealing a certain coldness and assumed elementality. The interior spaces have wood flooring and dominant white walls, interrupted by small colored surfaces in vivid red. The choice of red was inspired in the modernism. use of brass in elements such us lighting, water taps, door handles and bathroom acessories, aimed to give some warmness and confort.