Set astride the mouth of the river Douro, Porto is no stranger to international marvel. Throughout its long history that stretches as far back as pre-Roman settlements, this seaside city thrived as a prolific trade hub attracting both merchants and artists whose legacy survives in the disparate architectural styles, the infamous Port wine and the artisan workshops dotting every street. In recent times, the city has come under the spotlight for a renewed influx of visitors, drawn by the ubiquitous tile works, a reputation as food capital, surfing beaches and a flourishing design scene.
Over the past few years, in the heart of the city, between the parishes of Miragaia and Cedofeita, art galleries, independent shops and boutique hotels have converged at the intersection of Rua de Miguel Bombarda and Rua do Rosário and have quickly stamped the district as the city's trendiest. Here Margarida Leitão and Luís Sobral, the duo from the collective depA architects, set their eyes on one of the street's oldest properties and began shaping their vision.
Located in the upper part of Rua do Rosário, from which the house takes its name, Casa do Rosário resembles a typical Porto building. A thin façade stretches over three floors, the body of the house unravelling backwards and opening out onto a restricted patio. The street, once the possession of a local trader and Madonna-of-the-Rosary-devotee, attracted many families of Porto's 19th-century trading class. The archetypal layout of these houses reflects the families' path to fortune: as they rose through the ranks, additional volumes were stacked to create a larger space fitting their status.
The architects approached the project as a work of preservation keeping the original references intact and repurposing most of the parts found on site. The restored façade was pieced together with the original yellow tiles and served as an inspiration for the tenuous colour scheme of the interiors. Inside, cream-colored plaster works can be seen throughout the stairway that leads up to yet another staple of Portuguese architectural codes: the skylight. Together with two winter gardens and a polygon-shaped terrace, this is the central light piece brightening both the front and the back of the building.
Reminiscent of Catalan modernist apartments and attuned to the wider Iberian peninsula tradition, the house is partly floored in geometric-patterned hydraulic tiles. Other areas are panelled in tricapa and cedar wood matching the neutral taste of the furniture, much of which was designed by the architects themselves and assembled locally. Finally, corrugated metal sheets have been used to redress the exteriors of the attic providing a sensual ruggedness to the aesthetics of the building and creating an ensemble with more contemporary areas of town and the construction narrative of the 1980s.
At present, Casa do Rosário accommodates two private residences and a selection of short-term studios for an immersive experience in Porto's up and coming neighbourhood of Cedofeita.