Porto, Portugal

We’ve just come back from a whistle-stop visit to Porto and Lisbon. Here are our highlights from the Porto visit. Some top places to visit, some great architecture and the best places to chill out.

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This church was the first thing we saw when we emerged from the metro station in Porto and we were excited to explore more…

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Porto is known for its range of Azulejo tiles. Colourful ceramic tiles that line the streets and cover the facades of many of the buildings. This style of tile was influenced by the Moors and are typically Mediterranean colours.

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São Bento Train station built in 1916 is one of the most beautifully decorated train stations. Covered from floor to ceiling with over 20 thousand tiles that portray the history of Portugal. These magnificent scenes were painted by Jorge Colaço.

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As well as the more traditional artwork of the tiles Porto is full of modern art in the form of graffiti. From large scale portraits to little quotes of inspiration you can find bright new art surrounded by old and crumbling architecture. Showing Porto’s seamless link with keeping the old and embracing the new.

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Left – Alvaro Siza’s faculty of architecture, Porto. Right – Alvaro Siza’s Leça swimming pool, Leça de Palmeira. The architecture of the swimming pool fits perfectly with the landscape of the sea front in Leça de Palmeira. The building leading you to the open pools offer some great lines and perspectives. The pools slot within the rocks and make it seem as though you could swim all the way out to sea and the pools are tidal – so really do embrace the space around them.

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  Casa Da Musica, Rem Koolhaas, 2005. This music hall is an iconic building in Porto. With its main architectural focus on the sound proofing of the main music hall it is acoustically excellent. It also boasts a range of side rooms that allow you to view the main hall, but also hold classes and practices.

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The angles of the exterior of the building are mimicked within the building and its furnishings. It offers colour themed rooms with different uses and even a roof top terrace with a vast view of Porto.

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We managed to have a tour of the building whilst the Portuguese symphony orchestra were practicing and went back the next day to see them play. A definite must see when in Porto!

Of course there were a lot more things we did whilst there. Visiting the old town of Guimaraes was another highlight, the perfect place to sit in the sun in a square with a glass of wine.

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The influence of Andrea Palladio

Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) was a Venetian architect whose design philosophy summarised much of the worthy architecture that had gone on before his time, particularly Greek and Roman, and set the standard for most of the architecture that followed. His influence and his work can still be seen today in our historic buildings, and 21st century design solutions around the world.

Palladio shared his philosophy not only by his practice and prolific design and construction during his lifetime, but also by writing and publishing his seminal work called I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture). This body of work, first published in Italian in 1570, comprises guidelines, rules, design solutions, classical proportions, and everything else that design practitioners need to deliver the style that is has been known for 300 years or more as “Palladian”. It was over 100 years before the books were first translated into English.

In summary, Palladian architecture is characterised by symmetry and order. Copious use of mathematical proportions (after Vitruvius) porticos, colonnades, loggia, and of course the Venetian window.

An extract from one of Palladio’s “Four Books”.
An extract from one of Palladio’s “Four Books”.

Whilst it has unfortunately just finished, the RIBA ran an exhibition of Palladio’s work, and his subsequent influence, at its London headquarters called PALLADIAN DESIGN: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UNEXPECTED. This enlightening and very well yet simply curated display of drawings and models spanned from Palladio’s hand to today’s architects who still embrace Palladio’s philosophy. The work of numerous big hitters in architecture was displayed including Inigo Jones and Terry Quinlan. But two architectural giants who embraced Palladian design principals stood out – An 18th century Earl, and a president of the United States.

Boyle’s rendering of his design for Burlington House, Piccadilly.
Boyle’s rendering of his design for Burlington House, Piccadilly.

Richard Boyle (1694-1753) was the the 3rd Earl of Burlington and is recounted as the “the architect Earl”. To develop his craft, he toured Europe studying architecture and when he visited the Veneto region he carried with him a copy of Palladio’s “Four Books”.   As well as practicing as an architect, Boyle became a noted architectural historian and collector, owning several original Palladio drawings, which by Boyle’s time were already some 200 years old.

Burlington House today - home to The RA.
Burlington House today – home to The RA.

Boyle is of interest because he applied Palladian design principals to his own home on Piccadilly – Burlington House – which is today home to the Royal Academy and the Courtyard Societies. Boyle’s design solution for his home strictly aligned with Palladio’s rules and marked a shift in the architecture of London.

  Boyle went on to contribute several outstanding Palladian-style buildings to London including Chiswick House Villa and Westminster School.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) is well known as the third president of the United States, a Founding Father and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was a polymath, and amongst his myriad interests and talents outside of politics was architecture. Before his election as President, Jefferson (like Franklin and Adams) spent several years in Europe negotiating for the US on trade agreements. He was largely based in France and alongside many influences on his future interests, he discovered Palladio and his ‘Four Books”.

Jefferson’s original design for Monticello, VA.
Jefferson’s original design for Monticello, VA.     

Like Boyle, Jefferson first applied the Palladian principals to his own home, the fabulous Monticello in Virginia. The history of Monticello’s design and construction, which spanned most of Jefferson’s adult life is convoluted, but there can be no doubt that the finished article evidences Jefferson’s renaissance-level contribution to the architectural language of American buildings that still persists today.

Monticello today, a magnificent momument to Jefferson’s adopted Palladian principals.
Monticello today, a magnificent momument to Jefferson’s adopted Palladian principals.

  Jefferson went on to design numerous other very important buildings that still survive, most notably the Virginia State Capitol building and the Rotunda at the University of Virginia (having first founded the institution as part of the education reinvention that he led).

It is highly unlikely that when he wrote The Four Books of Architecture, Andrea Palladio realised the influence he and his work would have over centuries to come. Cynics might say that mathematical order, symmetry and form driven by function are inevitable directions of design development for an evolving, intelligent society. But that denies the fact that Palladio saw the need to restate the classical orders and design principals used 1,500 years before his own lifetime. His supporters would say that Palladio shifted the design paradigm and rescued Venice, Europe and subsequently the world from architectural mediocrity. Thank goodness he did.

Written by Paul S Smith, FRICS

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Summer Exhibition 2015

Every summer the Royal Academy holds this massive event in which over 1100 artists fill the walls. From paintings, photography, sculpture and architecture the art is varied and some of it is questionable.

“The Summer Exhibition is about artists’ generosity and democracy. No other gallery in the world tries to do what the RA does – open its doors to everyone who thinks of themselves as an artist, to have their work judged by their peers.” Bob and Roberta Smith RA

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The first thing you see as you enter the RA’s Annenberg Courtyard is ‘The Dappled Light of the Sun’ by Conrad Shawcross. A large and tall sculpture that you can walk between the legs of on the way to the main exhibition.

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Then up these brightly patterned stairs into the first room of the exhibition. Made from hundreds of pieces of colourful tape by Jim Lambie.

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The walls are painted bright and bold colours and the work is literally in some cases from floor to ceiling.

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There is so much work you could walk round various times and see something new!

And heres a couple of our favourite bits!

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It’s open till the 16th of August – book your tickets here: RA Summer Show

Also check out the BBC 2 documentary called ‘Royal Academy Summer Exhibition’.

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Salt and Silver at the Tate Britain

We headed over to the Tate Britain yesterday to check out their exhibition ‘Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840 – 1860’ a look into the early photographic process of using light sensitive paper coated in silver salts to create photographic prints.

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The overall exhibition was very interesting, getting to see images that were taken so long ago and look so much better than the photoshopped to death photographs that we see now.

Here are a few of our favourites

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Roger Fenton, Captain Mottram Andrews, 28th Regiment (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot, 1855

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John Beasly Greene, Egyptian Sculpture fragments, 1856

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 Linnaeus Tripe, Puthu Mundapum, view of nave. Trimul naik’s choultry. 

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Studio of Matthew Brady, Landing supplies on the James river Virginia, 

We want to know what the guy lying on the white pile in the bottom just of centre left is doing.

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William Fox Talbot, Scene in a Paris street, 1843

Finally a classic photographer and a classic photograph.

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Although it was a great exhibition the focus on Talbot’s ‘creation’ of the photograph was a niggling issue that we couldn’t shake off. Above is ‘View from the Window at Le Gras’ by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, thought to be the earliest surviving photographic print made in 1825. We understand the exhibition is about the salt and silver process, but we think that this photograph should have been mentioned.

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5 Exhibitions to see in London

Here are some of the upcoming and current exhibitions in London that you should check out.

Spray-painted dress, No. 13, Spring/Summer 1999
Spray-painted dress, No. 13, Spring/Summer 1999

1 – Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty opening the 14th March at The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Celebrating the extraordinary creative talent of one of the most innovative designers of recent times, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty will be the first and largest retrospective of McQueen’s work to be presented in Europe.”

A look into the work of Alexander McQueen, with LFW it is the perfect time to take a look at the renowned designer.

www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/exhibition-alexander-mcqueen-savage-beauty/about-the-exhibition/

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2 – Salt and Silver: Early photography 1840 – 1860. Opened yesterday at The Tate Britain.

A look at one of the earliest forms of photography, salted paper prints. Featuring work by William Henry Fox Talbot who is thought to have found this process in 1839. These rare and fragile prints were the first stepping stone to the technological photography we know and use today.

www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/salt-and-silver-early-photography-1840-1860

Guy Bourdin, Hands On
Guy Bourdin, Hands On

3 – Guy Bourdin: Image Maker open now, at Somerset House.

A look at the works of fashion designer Guy Bourdin taken between 1955 and 1987. The exhibition hosts over 100 colour prints that show the distinct style of fashion photography that Bourdin brought to the genre. In this exhibition you will also see some of his black and white works that are a contrast to colour that is his reputation.

www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/guy-bourdin

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4 – Conflict, Time, Photography. Open now at The Tate Modern.

An exhibition that focuses on time and how it passes in the world of conflict. Looking at over 150 years of conflict the exhibition takes you on a journey. Each piece is ordered in the duration of time from when the event happened and when the photograph was taken. You can be looking at photographs of different events that were taken 7 months afterwards, but that actually happened 50 years apart. With different events being shown multiple times at different stages of the exhibition.

www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/conflict-time-photography

Desert Courtyard House
Desert Courtyard House, by Wendell Burnette Architects

5 – Designs of the Year 2015 at the Design Museum. Opening 25th March.

A celebration of design. Looking at work that “promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year”. With 6 categories (Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Graphics, Product and Transport) the show offers a wealth of design ideas and inspiration. Looking at what 2015 is set to offer us in many ways.

designmuseum.org/exhibitions/future-exhibitions/designs-of-the-year-2015

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Red’s True BBQ Nottingham

Sunday I was invited to the friends and family opening of Red’s True BBQ in Nottingham. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was great. The music playlist was awesome, perfectly suited to the style.

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The good book, let there be meat. The leather menus feel great and are designed perfectly. For the amount of meat you get, the prices are great. I hear that theres a weekday lunch deal with bottomless drinks too.

Here’s what we got, and boy it was good.

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BBQ Rib Taster

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Mac-N-Cheese Balls

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Prime USDA Beef Brisket Plate with Sweet Potato Fries

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House Sauces with great recommendations to what to put on what.

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The interior has low lights and an urban industrial feel. With neon lights, graffiti, varied levels, sofas and mix and match furniture. You can see into the kitchen and the smell of the smoked meat fills the room.

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Theres a large  room within the restaurant that is available for renting out.

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Why not have a clown statue with a glowing nose?

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Well, I Believe.

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