Porto is a large city made up of small, irregular houses - with here and there some discrete palaces

This exhibition, dedicated to Porto’s World Heritage, was organized as part of the MA in History of Portuguese Art at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto The concept and creation of the exhibition were defined during the current academic year by teachers and students, who dedicated themselves to field work, research in libraries and archives and work carried out in the classroom context. Its creation became an enriching learning experience for students, who produced the images, and wrote the text descriptions, and for teachers, who used it as an exploratory tool for research methodologies applied to a collective project. The exhibition aims to present a different view of the Historic Centre of Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1996), focusing on aspects that define the city beyond its monuments. The ability to create cultural products in a pedagogical context, especially noticeable in the critical comments included in the “Details” of each image, was this project’s central motivation. TVU is a partner in the project, giving support in terms of production and communication. The Scientific Commission

The exhibition aims to present a different view of the Historic Centre of Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1996).

Focusing on aspects that define the city beyond its monuments.

On December 5th, 1996, UNESCO officially recognized the status of the Historic Centre of Porto as a Cultural Heritage site in its World Heritage list, on the basis of criterion IV, which reads: the Historic Centre of Porto ,with its urban fabric and numerous historic buildings, bears remarkable testimony to the development over the past thousand years of a European city that looks outward to the west for its cultural and commercial links.(ICOMOS, October 1996). The undeniable cultural value of Porto’s historic center manifests itself in a complex urban fabric and a unique collection of buildings. It owes its authenticity to the way these elements combine with a special way of life, which endorses the identity and idea of belonging to a community shaped over the centuries. Heritage is everything that adds quality to man’s cultural and physical life and finds notable meaning in the existence and affirmation of different communities, from the level of the neighborhood and parish, to the district council and the region, and extending beyond them to the national and international level. In the future, greater importance and attention will be placed on heritage and it will increasingly be seen as having a double-sided nature, that is, heritage as valued in the identity and memory of a community, and, above all, heritage as quality of life (Almeida, C.A.F. (1998) - Património. O seu entendimento e a sua gestão. Porto: Etnos.). It is by consolidating these values of identity and memory that the Historic Centre of Porto will come to be seen as an affirming factor in quality of life.

The Metamorphic Complex of the mouth of the River Douro, classified as Municipal Natural Heritage.

The redevelopment of the seafront has served to integrate this landscape into the daily circuits of both locals and visitors.

The memory of the river is still evoked in expressive rituals of devotion.

Despite being, in the words of the writer Almeida Garrett (1799-1854), a hard river to navigate, the Douro has since been controlled thanks to the construction of several dams.

Redeveloping the coastline has contributed to the life quality of the city’s population.

This house was built in 1907 and exemplifies the Neo-Manueline architecture of Avenida Brasil.

The Lifeguard or Sea Wolf (1937), by Henrique Moreira (1890-1979), recalls the dangers of the ocean.

Under the arch of the Arrábida Bridge – designed by Edgar Cardoso and inaugurated in 1963 – a new pedestrian pathway has been developed.

World Heritage, here, is not only a monument, nor even a large collection of monuments, with its houses and streets, churches, majestic bridges… and wharves ... not to mention the walls and the many stones... besides all the iron and the tiles ... Here, World Heritage is the city. Fervid, restless, shaped more by change than by rest ... made up of souls meeting and bustling in the streets and in houses, in boats and on the quays, in churches, in markets and in the shops ... Porto, World Heritage Site, is, above all, a whirlwind of energy and wills, carrying the city forward towards a vibrant future, a city that already bears twenty-five centuries of differences and overlapping layers, all an integral part of the site which is today. The future of Porto lies more in the strength of its people and the forces of investment than in the stones of the Cathedral or the Clérigos Tower. (LOZA, R. – “Porto Centro Histórico” In AGUIAR, F. B. de (org.) (2008) - Património da Humanidade na Bacia do Douro, S.l., CCDRN e Fundação Rei Afonso Henriques, 28)

The façade of the Church of São Lourenço, of grandiose and flamboyant dimensions, seems like a theatrical backdrop implanted amid the surrounding mesh of small-scale town buildings.

Ancient settlement on top of the Morro da Sé (Cathedral Hill), where the Cathedral complex and the Bishop's Palace were built, combines with the medieval urban fabric, which still remains.

The challenges posed by crossing a river with such high banks stimulated the architects’ ingenuity.

The name Carquejeiras’ Walkway derives from the activity of women in days gone by who carried on their heads huge amounts of carqueja (a herb-like plant), unloaded from the boats docked at the quayside.

1941 photograph of Praça da Ribeira (Ribeira Square) and surrounding houses.

The transformation of the square in the 18th century was part of the city’s renovation under the administration of João de Almada e Melo.

The orographic and geological features of the Douro’s course, whereby the river runs between steep cliffs, endow the city of Porto with outstanding scenic value.

The contact with nature which has still only been partially tamed by human hands, despite settlement dating back thousands of years.

The tile panel Ribeira Negra (Dark Ribeira) by Júlio Resende (1917-2011) dates from 1987.

Inaugurated in 1956, the Ribeira tunnel is the result of an arduous struggle against nature, enabling the creation of a riverside road (Avenida Gustavo Eiffel).

Porto is a large city made up of small, irregular houses - with here and there some discrete palaces. And it is precisely this unique sense of contradiction, especially visible in the way most houses are narrow yet of varying sizes, that explains the apparent disorder of Porto’s visual landscape (...). (OLIVEIRA, E. V. de; GALHANO, F. (1992) - Arquitectura Tradicional Portuguesa. Lisboa: Publicações Dom Quixote, 301) The richness and architectural variety of the houses in Porto’s Historic Centre reveals the cultural values of successive ages, reflecting a long process of adaptation and urban transformation. In Porto, as in many towns of medieval origin, monastic and conventual buildings occupied a large area within the city limits. The dissolution of Religious Orders (1834) saw the total demolition (Santo Domingo, Lóios, Carmelitas and São Bento de Avé-Maria) or partial demolition (Monchique, São Francisco or Santo António dos Congregados) of major monastic complexes and their enclosures, which gave rise to commercial and industrial facilities, housing and public works. It was then that the city’s urban expansion began to take shape, occupying these areas and replicating the narrow size of the lots, which had always been a feature of the city. The typical houses of Porto’s bourgeoisie, built in the nineteenth century, can be divided into two groups: firstly, those preserving the old multifunctional arrangement that assigned living accommodation to the upper floors, and trades and workshops to the ground floors; and, secondly, the mono-functional house. It is not uncommon to see housing architecture mixing classical elements from courtly palaces: in the design of the facades, in the carved stonework or in the tiled forecourts with stone staircases. The building materials, tiling and decoration most often used in Porto’s houses are granite, stucco, tile and iron, linked to the growth of workshops and industry in the nineteenth-century city.

Its urban design has been conditioned by the narrow width of lots, whose area can only be increased by adding new floors.

The mingling colors and shapes are the result of successive transformations to the intricate maze of streets making up the original medieval city, through which new, roughly regular roads have been cut.

This has led to an accumulation of volumes, with diverse orientations and features, together forming the composition we see today, which gives the city its identity.

A bourgeois architectural style, which is commonly typified by buildings adorned with granite stonework, artistic metalwork and ceramic tiling.

In contrast to the main façades lining the street front, the rear facades of these houses, which contain the service areas, are characterized by their increased dimensions.

The skylights that illuminate the stairwells of the buildings, or the inner courtyards, stand out in panoramic views of the city, with their varying shapes and sizes.

The concept of authenticity, as it is defined internationally in the charters and conventions of heritage, results from the sum of substantial, historically ascertained characteristics: from the original up to the current state, as an outcome of the various transformations that have occurred over time (Krakow 2000). According to the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage (Paris, 1972), groups of buildings are valued because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science (Article 1) The registration of the Historic Centre of Porto in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (1996) was based on the outstanding universal significance of its urban fabric, whose aesthetic worth has grown over the centuries as the city has developed. The Historic Centre of Porto’s richness and variety of civil architecture reveals the cultural values of successive ages, reflecting how it has constantly adapted to the prevailing social and geographical structure, preserving a stable and consistent relationship between the urban environment and the natural constraints of the terrain.

A public walkway was built in 1865, under the design of the German landscape architect Emilio David (1839-1869).

The Torre dos Clérigos (Clerics’ Tower), designed by the Italian Nicolau Nasoni (1691-1773), rises 75.6m in height.

The first tramline opened in Porto in 1895.

Since 2007 this building has been the site of the Rectory of the University of Porto.

The design for the Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange Palace), under Joaquim da Costa Lima Sampaio (1842), was centered around the cloister of the Convent of Saint Francis, which had been rebuilt in the 18th century.

Stratigraphical analysis is essential in a city like Oporto where buildings cohabit a very confined space, each witness to a different era and fitting the topography of the land.

Porto is a city facing the Atlantic, and connected to it via the mouth of the River Douro. The river’s difficult navigation demanded the use of maritime signaling from the earliest times. As a coastal city, Porto developed due to the importance of its maritime trade. Portus was established on the Douro’s north bank, and ever since Roman times has faced Cale (Vila Nova de Gaia) on the south bank. From early times Porto has been the hub of commercial trade in the wider region north and south of the Douro, and it is one of the few European cities that still retains the original medieval building that housed the customs house and the mint. The commercial port was developed alongside the Praça da Ribeira (Riverside Square), leading to the emergence of a mercantile bourgeoisie and the urban development of the riverfront. However, significant changes to the centrality of the urban core were only made after the great urban projects of the second half of the eighteenth century, which sought to open up formal streets in the Historic Centre, the subsequent dissolution of religious orders in 1834 and the arrival of the first train to São Bento Station (St. Benedict) Station in 1896. It was the rich new merchant class, hard-working and dedicated to new services, who would change the urban profile of Porto and its Historic Center. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the city radically transformed by the opening up of new roads, the construction of grandiose new buildings in the pre-existing fabric and the clearing of space for the development of new areas of urban expansion.

During the second half of the 20th century several projects were proposed to complete the Avenida da Ponte (Bridge Avenue), as shown by the granite escarpment on one side, which remains a scar on the city landscape.

It fell to Marques da Silva’s to design one of the most prominent buildings in Porto’s baixa (downtown), built to accommodate the Nascimento Department Store.

It seeks to blend a classicist style and strong decorative impact with the functional character required of the new buildings made of concrete.

Pérola do Bolhão is one of the oldest grocery stores in the city, founded in 1917 by António Rodrigues Reis in Rua Formosa.

It features a façade with Art Nouveau styling, lined with tiles depicting tea and coffee.

It systematically assumes the new look which was being sought to instill in the city’s civic center then under construction.

Its lavish interior, designed by the architect João Queirós (1892-1982), takes us back to the Porto of the artistic, literary and political gatherings of the first decades of the 20th century.

Avenida dos Aliados (Avenue of the Allies) features a homogeneous array of quality buildings that project a cosmopolitan image. Its redevelopment (2005 and 2006), by Siza Vieira and Souto Moura, following the urban transformation due to the installation of Porto’s Metro system, has led to a new relationship between the space and its buildings. Aimed at reinforcing the integral nature of the space, and highlighting the functions of a civic square widened into an avenue, the project proposes a city reception room, clearly visible from pathways leading to it and visually enhanced by an open space affording views free of visual barriers. The remains of commonplace, anonymous building, tentatively modernized, coexist with the grand, large-scale buildings inherited from the turn of the 19th century. The creation of the Avenue paved the way for large multifunctional buildings which, in the first decades of the 20th century, set the tone for those which now share the same height and use, occupying extensive lots, between rounded corners marked by soaring towers. As a stately and disciplined synecdoche of the city, the overlapping buildings do not clash here but combine harmoniously together, preparing the way for subsequent projects.

Of particular note are the 70-metre-high central tower, a northern-European style belfry, and the rich stonework that graces the building.

The horizontal extension of the palace facade is accentuated by the rhythm created by the large number of windows with sills and balconies.

Designed principally by the British architect Barry Parker (1867-1947), between 1915 and 1917, Avenida dos Aliados (Avenue of the Allies) was conceived as the city's civic center.

It boasts in its center the monument to D. Pedro IV, inaugurated in 1866, which honors the city’s liberator.

Alongside current housing construction, there are the vast structures of the old warehouses, and the great edifices of the old factories, often conditioned by their original function.

The ancient traces of old urban centers provoke an unconscious and subjective impression due to the way they oppose the present. This opposition manifests itself in an imperfection, in a trend towards erosion of form and color, in a lack of finished character. Porto is the result of very old sedimentary layers that quickly absorb contemporary architectural projects, including them in its idiosyncratic whole. Porto’s topographical features do not allow an overall view of its Historic Centre. The city’s urban core can best be viewed from the south bank of the river, or on a hill overlooking it. But Porto is a city of nooks and crannies, which can only be discovered and enjoyed on foot. Its landscape value is best appreciated and more impressive when seen close up. Whether among the narrow streets and old buildings, punctuated by monumental, larger-scale buildings or following one of the more regularly laid out roads, where an elegant row of houses lines the street, one can appreciate the overlapping shapes and sizes which are fruit of the city’s narrow lots. What stands out is the architecture’s morphological variety, from the buildings designed with explicit artistic intent to those that express commonplace values, stemming from an informal and secular constructive practice. The Historic Centre of Porto is an urban complex unique in its kind and aesthetically appealing. Porto is a city of hidden delights, which one discovers by wandering its streets; a city that once observed, invites you back again for another glimpse.

The memory of more prosperous times lingers in the intricate design of the façades.

Located on the outskirts of the medieval city, the fishing community of S. Pedro de Miragaia attests to Porto’s commercial expansion westwards.

Following the European fashion of holidaying by the sea, Foz do Douro, the old fishing hub, expanded westwards from the 1830s.

The Carvalhinho Pottery Factory (c. 1840) located in the old Quinta da Fraga was originally set up in the now ruined Chapel of Senhor do Carvalhinho.

Located between the Torre dos Clérigos (Clerics’ Tower) and Rua das Carmelitas (Carmelite Street), Praça de Lisboa (Lisbon Square) and the Jardim das Oliveiras (Olive Tree Garden) establish a new link with the Palácio do Conde de Vizela (1864-1923)

The tile panels lining the outer walls date from 1932 and were made by Jorge Colaço (1868-1942).

The sober architectural lines of the commercial buildings were modernized by vibrant frontages in a Beaux Art style and animated by various anthropomorphic elements.

The decorative tilework made by Jorge Colaço for the entrance hall (1905) consists of an extensive scheme that includes historical and ethnographic scenes as well as landscapes, alluding to the Douro and Minho railway lines.

The torre (tower), designed by Fernando Távora (1923-2005) and built between 1995 and 2002.

Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto
Credits: Story

Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto/Câmara Municipal do Porto
• Gravura: Vista do Porto de Teodoro de Sousa Maldonado
• Planta redonda do Porto de George Balck
• A ribeira e o Barredo vistos do Seminário Maior do Porto
• Miragaia: cheia no rio Douro de 1962 (Teófilo Rego)
• A Catedral entre as casas do Porto
• Jardim da Cordoaria em inícios do século XX
Arquivo Particular de Imagem Fotográfica Nuno Resende
• Aspeto da entrada do túnel da Ribeira (inaugurado em 1956)

Almeida, C.A.F. (1998) - Património. O seu entendimento e a sua gestão. Porto: Etnos.
CRUARB/CH (coord.) – Porto a Património Mundial. 2ª Edição. Porto: C.M.P., 1996.
CRUARB/CH (coord.) – Porto a Património Mundial. Processo de Candidatura do Centro Histórico do Porto à UNESCO - Livro II. I Edição. Porto: C.M.P., 1998.
LOZA, R. (2008) – “Porto Centro Histórico” In AGUIAR, F. B. de (org.) - Património da Humanidade na Bacia do Douro, S.l., CCDRN e Fundação Rei Afonso Henriques.
OLIVEIRA, E. V. de; GALHANO, F. (1992) - Arquitectura Tradicional Portuguesa. Lisboa: Publicações Dom Quixote.

Credits: All media
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