New Architecture Ignores the Old in Portugal

Portugal is full of churches, palaces, fortresses and restored historic houses containing private art collections. Possibly there are more historic sites per capita in Portugal than anywhere in Europe. Older houses, too, are frequently architecturally interesting, with curved roof lines, angled windows, wrought iron balconies, tiled facades and other graceful details.

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We even see the occasional Art Deco structure, though most of these are  past their prime.

5.22.16 Porto-010
That really is a peacock on the top balcony.

Every city has a lot of older buildings in need of remodeling or repair. We saw this in Lisbon and Porto as well as in the smaller places that we passed through.


This reminded me of the Fez medina where buildings are cantilevered over narrow streets. They often look like they need additional support.




When older buildings are renovated the results can be very attractive, like the pink house below:5.22.16 Porto-029Other houses persist as they are hemmed in by taller buildings:

5.22.16 Porto-030I have nothing against large apartment buildings in general (well, not a lot), but in Portugal, new buildings generally ignore every possible reference to the architectural past, resulting in whitewashed boxes. If there are balconies, they are usually made of cement–they have no detail at all.

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Why can’t new buildings in Portugal have any of the attractive features of older buildings? The tall piles of stacked featureless boxes come from the descendants of the creators of Manueline architectural style, possibly the most ornate in history. I don’t particularly want to live in a Baroque nightmare of twisting snakes and crowns. Here’s an all out example of a Manueline doorway. This probably wouldn’t work for every doorway…

5.11.16 Belem LisbonNot even this one:

5.10.16 Setubal-031but I’d like to see some middle ground.





Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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