porto projects

porto project (2014-2015)

Porto and its two red lines

The collective task of this unit is to perform acts of architectural research upon the city of Porto, using the relation of rooms+cities as a critical framework and the plan as our critical tool. Architectural design projects within the city + writing critical texts are our primary research methods. Accordingly, your main task this year is a building project in Porto. The purpose of this trip to Porto is to find project sites and sketch out initial site strategies. In order to direct this task in a new and unfamiliar city, in a very short time, you will be asked to focus on investigating and documenting specific aspects of the city and its rooms. Site selection, program, and building design must reflect an understanding of the signs and characteristics of Porto, and how the room in its many and varied forms and scales, erupts in the fabric of the city. Your design thinking and decisions must be imbedded in the broader research project on Porto.

Lets make a wager
Lets imagine that Porto is organised by two datums. One is defined by the concatenation: Avienda Dom Alonso Henriques, Avienda Vimara Peres, Ponte Luis 1, Avienda Republica as it cuts through the old city. The other is defined by Avienda da Boavista. It organises the westward 19th C expansion of the city to the sea.
  • Avienda Dom AH – a slightly composite [discontinuous?] line running north south, from the Vitoria neighbourhood in the north (San Beno train station and Aliados) until it disappears in Gaia.
  • Avienda da Boavista – a single monumental line joining uptown Porto in the east (Siza, Bouça Housing at Metro Lapa) to the Atlantic ocean (Siza, Leça da Palmeira ocean swimming pool). It seems to peter out, to lose itself, in the Cedofeita neighbourhood of Porto.

The first  datum appears most clearly in section, as a single horizontal line chiseled through the summit of the old town, across the upper road deck of the Ponte Luis, until becomes just an other road, in the town of Gaia. The second datum appears as a plan form, the continuous strait line, a 19th Century line.

Lets make another wager
If we can use these data as a conceptual frame for organising Porto, we can understand how to locate a new institutional building in Porto, a building that is either a site for exchange or a site for representation.

Two tasks
You will be divided into 4 teams of 2 to 4 students each. As a member of a group, you will have two tasks in Porto. You will need to document these two data, to understand how they function in the city of Porto; and you will need to find sites and site strategies for your projects. The documentation of both should be regarded as group projects.

Task 1 Proto investigation: the two datums [east-west, north-south; plan, section]
Drawing on your summer city plan analysis you are to investigate and document these two datums through drawings, sketches, photographs, and analytic diagrams. You may also use other media (film, models). Questions:
  • Where does your chosen datum begin and end?
  • Where are its rooms and how do they vary along the length of your datum?
  • How does your datum organise the shape and structure of the city [rooms, buildings, spaces, fabric, events, geometry, the traces of what is not there, its inner and outer surfaces]?
  • How does its function, characteristics, relation to context, etc. change along its length?
  • What are the typical conditions along its length; what is atypical, exceptional; disruptive, other?
  • What is its historical development?
  • How does it order familiar urban dichotomies like big-little, public-private, city-region?

Task 2 The project site and project brief
You need to find a site for an institutional building in Porto. You are asked to find a site that has a relation to your datum and asked to be able to define that relation. You are asked to think, in the first instance of the program (a script for inhabiting a room?) as a site for exchange or representation, and think: exchange of what [ideas, cattle…], representation of what and for who [political power, narratives, history…]? You will need to think as creatively about brief selection as about the site selection. Think how these concepts define space, a program, a machine.
Your project is a room or series of rooms with a particular relation to the city.

Teams – we will choose/assign in class on Friday
  • Team 1 – Avienda Dom AH – focus on the San Bento trains station and the tower just east of where the bridge springs.
  • Team 2 – Avienda da Boavista – focus on Military hospital No.1, Casa da Musica, the Agramonte cemetery (also the Alvaro Siza Lapa housing is nearby).
  • Team 3 – Avienda da Boavista – focus on the Souto de Moura Torre Burgo office development.
  • Team 4 – Avienda da Boavista – focus on the anonymous commercial development with tower and multiplex aka ‘the strip’ [this team better read Learning from…].


Drop Box
In addition to the plans and photographs in drop box, please also note
the student-compiled guides to Alvaro Siza and to Porto/Lisbon architecture;
the Viva Porto very detailed survey documents for the old town.

Mip Web/portal de Informação Geográfica at
This site is published by Porto Cãmara Municipal [= Porto Municipal Offices]. You will find detailed plans of all of Porto, with turn off –able layers showing historical data, trees, zoning, transport, and the like.
On my laptop these pages load painfully slowly, but they have useful information.

As far as we know, the definitive paper on exchange and representation has not yet been written [is this a studio project?], but you might look at:
Kurt W Forster, 'Stagecraft and statecraft' in Oppositions (1977) pp63-87 [historical].
Kenneth Frampton, 'The status of man and the status of his objects' in Labour, Work and Architecture: collected essays on architecture and design (London: Phaidon Press, 2002) pp25-43 [political].
Karl Marx, Capital: a critical analysis of capitalist production (1887) (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1961) esp. chapter one, in which Marx defines the exchange value of commodities [economic].
Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (Dijon: les presses du reel, 2002) [aesthetics].

porto rooms (2013-2014)

What are rooms?
What relation does a room in a city have to the city?

How do rooms + cities cross with other oppositions:

·                     private + public space?
·                     inside + outside?
·                     small + large?
·                     intimate + distant?
·                     space + (infra)structure?

All the rooms we have selected are to a degree ‘public’, all are embedded, physically and culturally in the city.
In each case, you are confronted by a particular relationship(s) of an interior to a city.

Through drawings and sketches, scaled plans and sections, 3D projections, perspectives, photomontage:
Document the room.
Document the relation of the room to the city.

Tom/Hannah/Vivi : Hall of Nations (Stock Exchange) and/or S.Nicolau Baths & Wash house (Paulo Providencia – you’ll find this in the 2G 20 book on Portuguese Architecture)http://guiastecnicos.turismodeportugal.pt/contemporaries/view/Lavadouro-e-Balneario-de-Sao-Nicolau

Leod/Ben/Andrea : either the internal staircase in the photography gallery or casa dos vinte e quatro (fernando tavora)

Dan S./Ran Liu : Tiled Hall of Sao Bento Station and/or the hall of the Metro Sao Bento Station (Siza)

Colin/Louise/Dan G : Bolhao Market

Decide between you what you will study and how you will do it - work as a team not as individuals. 
The drawings you make will be exhibited alongside the completed 'summer rooms' in week 7.

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