Until about 1990, CIF's administrative headquarters were located at no. 17-21, Rua de São João (Oporto), near the port of Ribeira. In this important commercial artery of the city, the company developed its business relationships and secured a position in the competitive Oporto market.
The building currently houses the Carris Porto Ribeira Hotel. The banks of the Douro River, which once attracted several industries and their headquarters, now represent a tourist product of excellence.
A company between two cities
Factory-office decentralisation was one of the factors favourable to the development of these companies. Away from the densely built historical centre, the factories were settled on cheaper land with the possibility of growth, accessible across the river.
The products marketed by these foundries were diversified, including agricultural machinery (ploughs, wine and oil presses), household objects (ironers, cast iron three legged pots, firewood supports), industrial machinery and urban furniture objects (grids, benches...). The location, accessibility and specialised offer of agricultural and textile machinery (a growing sector) were determinant for the greater longevity of CIF.
At CIF, a set of photographs signed by Casa Alvão (founded in 1902) has been preserved, which provides information on the evolution of the built environment. The clichés of the renowned photography house were used to illustrate the pieces executed and are included in old CIF catalogues. The photographic collection of Casa Alvão, currently at the Portuguese Centre of Photography (CPF), includes a large number of photographs that allow us to get to know the interiors of the factory, machinery and manufactured objects.
The CIF brand can be found all over the city of Oporto, on park benches, lamp posts and devantures [façades] of commercial establishments. In recent years, the company has played a key role in the restoration of cast iron objects of historical value. In this type of work, CIF reproduces the mark of the original foundryman rather than its own.
Located opposite to the parish of Crestuma (Vila Nova de Gaia), where the iron industry had established itself in the mid-19th century, the factory grew organically. Adapted to the conditions of the terrain (in terraces) and the availability of local materials, the bodies built used wood and schist. The location also favoured the acquisition of river sand, which was adapted and used in the foundry.
Companhia Industrial de Fundição - Panoramic view (c. 1930) by Casa AlvãoFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
Gondomar Foundry, Paiva & Irmão and Reunited Foundries
Before consolidating as CIF in 1931, the company operated under other names. Despite having known different owners, it maintained the facilities, accumulating materials and moulds from its predecessors. This practice was used by other factories in the city.
Companhia Industrial de Fundição - Panoramic view (After 1931) by Casa AlvãoFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
CIF – Companhia Industrial de Fundição
The first catalogue published by CIF stated that the factory was the largest in the north of the country, had the oldest reputation and employed hundreds of workers. It was located in an isolated place, had its own wharf and the river was its main access.
CIF – Companhia Industrial de Fundição
The prosperity of the business required successive adaptations and updates to the building: the cluttered sheds, made of schist and wood, were dismantled to give rise to a single pavilion. Large quantities of foundry waste are accumulating on the hillside.
New paths lead to CIF
The 1945 National Road Plan established the opening of the "Estrada Marginal" (Marginal Road) (EN108-Oporto/Peso da Régua), a road parallel to the river line. The conditions of access to CIF changed radically, providing a land-based alternative to the river transport of materials and goods.
Companhia Industrial de Fundição - Panoramic view (1950s) by Casa AlvãoFaculty of Arts and Humanities of University of Porto
While construction of the EN108 retaining walls was underway, CIF built a new body for CIF's technical design office and warehouse.
The building, of rectilinear and austere lines, was designed by the Mechanical Engineer Alfredo Quintans Alves de Sá. The central body had an enormous skylight and a lift that allowed the large pieces to be lifted to the upper floors. The photographs of Casa Alvão confirm the photographer's several visits to the company's facilities between around 1930 and around 1950.
CIF in the 21st century
The building was adapted and modernised during the last century and the old wharf was absorbed by vegetation and made unusable following the inauguration of the Crestuma-Lever Dam in 1986.
Heritage alive and with a future
Two buildings remain of the original construction, respecting everything else to the transformations of the future.
CIF's brand and history endure through time and its timeless models (park benches, lamp posts, fountains, etc) are still in production.
Coordenation - Ana Cristina Sousa (DCTP/FLUP/CITCEM) e Diana Felícia.(FLUP/CITCEM).
Curatorship and texts - Diana Felícia.(FLUP/CITCEM)
Scientific Review - Ana Cristina Sousa (DCTP/FLUP).
Photography - CPF - Portuguese Centre of Photography (Casa Alvão Fund); CIF's collection.
Aereal images - João Marçal (CITCEM).
Translation – Multilingual Europe.
Acknowledgments - This exhibition is part of the Ph.D. project “The CIF (Companhia Industrial de Fundição - Gondomar) and the production of artistic cast iron in Europe, in the 19th and 20th centuries” funded by FCT with the reference 2021.06713.BD, under guidance of Professor Ana Cristina Sousa (DCTP-FLUP/CITCEM).
This translation is financed by National Funds through the FCT - Foundation for Science and Technology, under the project UIDB/04059/2020.