Duas de Letra is a typical expression from Porto that means to have an informal talk. This expression served as motto for the ambiance that the owners wanted to create in this building, facing one of the oldest public parks in Porto – S.Lazaro. The building had been originally a residential townhouse from the 19thcentury, with 3,50m wide and 28 m long, but had already suffered major changes in it’s interior. The original staircase was gone and to the rear façade several volumes have been added, occupying the whole plot. The original materials and details were gone in the first two floors and had been replaced with cheap materials, that served it’s last function, which was a warehouse.
The Duas de Letra Cafe pretended to offer a cozy atmosphere, for inhabitants of the area and fine arts students (just around the corner is the Fine Arts School) with different spaces for a talk, to study and for eventual exhibitions. The first two floors were destined to be public, while the third one receives an office and storage. Being very narrow and long, the first operation was the opening of a patio in the back , allowing the natural light to come inside the ground floor.
The plants climbing the yellow walls create a colorful atmosphere that can be seen from the street and making a connection with the park. I managed to design the counter and corridor in a 3,50 m wide space, leaving space for some tables by the windows that face the street and the park. With a very tight budget, there was no money for fancy materials, and most of the finishings were made by the owners themselves.
Sometimes we re-used old doors to cover the counter, L and U iron bars for the “in situ” handmade door and window frames and on the first floor the budget was not enough to cover the existing ceramic pavement, as planned. On the first floor we located an exhibition space, facing the park, taking advantage of the existing balcony and created a small winter garden, facing the patio, creating a visual connection with it and bringing the light inside the building.
The existing iron staircases were redesigned, so they would fit the existing regulations and allowing a more comfortable step. Because of the additions, the original rear façade was now an interior granite wall in the last part of the building. All the paint was taken off, leaving the granite stone visible and the addition was redesigned to the patio with typical material language from these additions, which are the U and L iron frames.
To the street, we painted the existing PVC window frames in a dark blue, that will match the blue tiles in the facade. In the patio, the idea was to provoke a luminous atmosphere, so we used two typical colors of Porto’s 19th century buildings – the oxide red on the floor and ochre yellow on the walls, that react well to the northern light. In conclusion, part of this of command was an interesting budget-gymnastics exercise, where DIY construction techniques and recycling operations were fundamental in the refurbishment and revitalization of this old townhouse.
Designed by Bernardo Amaral
Photo by Attilio Fiumarella