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.


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


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.


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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Architectural Inspiration: The Kunsthal

The Kunsthal is a museum that was designed by architect Rem Koolhaas and established in 1992. The museum in Rotterdam goes against the conventional modernist architecture that was otherwise being seen at the time of its design and making.


The off the shelf materials used to make this building play with the idea of the industrial ready mades. The joins between materials are harsh and clash. Although the building was cheaply made and badly put together it is a architectural statement.


The design of the building itself is also a sort of mix match. It is set on a slope with a road at one end and a woods at the other. Within the building the walkways are also a series of slopes. They lead you around the building and don’t allow you to rest, they change how you react to the building and manipulate your experience of it.


When you enter the building (if you can find the entrance) you are brought straight into the lecture theatre. Seen above and bellow.




This building is a montage of materials and spaces. It is a homage to modern architecture.


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We visited the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum last week. Natural History has a constant great display (and gift shop) and the temporary photography exhibitions on there are always great to see. The V&A is hosting an array of work for the London Design Festival at the moment and one piece really stood out for us.


This is Mise-en-abyme by designers Laetitia de Allegri and Matteo Fogale in collaboration with Johnson Tiles.


This piece aims to play with your sense of perspective. The overlapping semi-transparent layers and the lines of the tiles work create a landscape that takes influence from the one-point perspective found during the Renaissance period. The title “Mise-en-abyme” meaning “placed into abyss” reflects on the feelings and experience felt whilst walking through this installation. I like the fact that you have to duck to get through some of the layers it gets you involved with the work. This piece isn’t complete until someone walks through it.

I love the way that the colours from the layers work with the light and the tiles to create different patterns and hues. Here is a little text from the exhibition “The grout lines of the tiles lining the bridge represent the perspective grid lines found on Renaissance drawings, creating an illusion of exaggerated depth that draws the viewer into the work. Each tile features a custom landscape across the bridge appear to open outward or to close inward, depending on the visitor’s point of view”

A great piece and one that I will be thinking about whilst working on research for my MA!


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Inspiration – György Kepes

György Kepes was a painter, designer, educator and art theorist.


He is an unsung hero of design. He was born in 1906 he studied painting in Budapest, then moved to filmmaking after his graduation. In 1930 he moved to Berlin to work with Maholy-Nagy who was a key experimenter in light and moving imagery. They left Germany and ended up in Chicago where they founded an arts school. After leaving Chicago Kepes ended up in 1943 teaching at Brooklyn College and then published “The language of vision”.

Compass and Strainer Photogram n.d Gy?rgy Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80553
Compass and Strainer Photogram            G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80553

He then moved to M.I.T where he refined his art and the way he thought about art. He conducted experiments and produced exquisitely composed and technically ingenious photographs, photo collages and photograms. Kepes focused his attention on the effects of the light and the objects.

Blobs 3 c. 1939-40 G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80545
Blobs 3 c. 1939-40
G Kepes 1906-2001 Purchased 2013 www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P80545

His work and his texts on architecture and light are inspiring:

“In 1967, Gyorgy Kepes wrote: The application of light to clarify and inform architectural spaces and complex cityscapes is not yet a discipline…. We know how to make illumination both adequate and comfortable. This has been the goal of illumination engineers who have learned all that physiology and physics can teach them concerning both natural and artificial lighting. But architects and planners realize that there are immense opportunities in lighting, and they demand more than just comfort and amplitude. “ (Light: The Shape of Space: Designing with Space & Light, Lou Michel, P.xv)


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5 Interior Colour Combinations

Five colourful combinations that work great in the home.






The key with the selection that we’ve chosen here is the neutral base. The colour comes from the furniture and accessories.

As we’ve said before this is a great way to be able to easily change the look and feel of a room.


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London Life… So Far

The Masters in Interior and Spatial design course that I will be studying at Chelsea College of arts starts in October and to prepare for this I have recently moved to Elephant and Castle.

I’ve been living in London for a week now. The first few days I was busy training for my role as Student Welfare Mentor for UAL. The weekend was a stupidly busy time of moving in the undergraduates, welcome parties and meeting lots of new people.

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The building I am living in is a brand new student accommodation. The views from the 8th floor are pretty great. One side looks out over some of the most iconic buildings in London and the other side boasts the London eye and a great sunset.


So far I have managed to get to some galleries. The first art piece I saw was the balloons in Covent Garden. The installation by Charles Pétillion. 100,000 glowing white balloons have been suspended to the ceiling of the market in a work titled Heartbeat. Pétillion wants this giant cloud of balloons to bring back peoples attention to the buildings and history around Covent Gardens. It is definitely getting a lot of people to visit the building and to look up.

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The next gallery I visited was the Tate Modern. The building is having a lot of work done to it at the moment. Most of the contents of the galleries at the Tate I have seen many times before, but there were a few new pieces. On the river bank I found this guy with his crazy bubble making kit.


I also managed to get to the Tate Britain and the postgraduate show at Chelsea. Which I hoped would help me to understand a little more what the course was about and what kind of work was produced. But the range of work and meanings behind them was crazy. It seemed like anything goes.


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Designer – Alvar Aalto

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Alvar Aalto was a Finnish sculptor, painter, designer and architect. At the start of his career in the 1920s his style was focused on ‘Nordic Classicism’. This changed to a more international modern style in the 1930s and continued towards a modernist style till the end of his career in the 1970s.

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Alvar Aalto stool, model E60, designed in 1933. Paimio lounge chair, beech plywood, birch, designed in 1932.

The design style of the furniture by Aalto was considered to be ‘Scandinavian Modern’. His designs were pieces that were simplistic, modern and functional.

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Aalto was concerned with making buildings that are a ‘total work of art’. He would not only design the building but the interiors, the light fixtures and the furniture. The buildings Aalto designed continued to have hints towards the Scandinavian style seen in his furniture and early work.

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“God created paper for the purpose of drawing architecture on it. Everything else is at least for me an abuse of paper.” Alvar Aalto, Sketches, 1978, P.104


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Architect: Oscar Niemeyer


Oscar Niemeyer was a Brazilian architect whose works are considered key in the development of modern architecture. His explorations into the decorative potential of reinforced concrete was influential and innovative. Niemeyer was a key designer for the planned city Brasilia that became Brazil’s capital in 1960.

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The Cathedral, Brasilia. Stair case Brasilia

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As well as this work Niemeyer also worked on a range of other buildings that incorporate these clean lined, heavy and modern ideas. One of these is the International Cultural Centre in Aviles, Spain. A building that incorporates curves, lines and differing heights.

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International Cultural Centre in Aviles, Asturias, Spain, inaugurated 2011.

His buildings are beautifully modern and solid in structure. His style is distinctive and recognisable.

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Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil. Mondadori palace by oscar niemeyer in Milan, Italy.


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National Museum in Brasilia by Oscar Niemeyer. Oscar Niemeyer Round building.

Not only did Niemeyer design these spectacular buildings, he also worked with pattern and design to create various colourful, and black and white, patterned tiles. He worked with many colours, mainly blue and used shapes and lines to create tiles that can be put together in various layouts to create varying patterns.

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These are but a few of his designs, he was pretty great at what he did. Truly inspirational.


This mural was painted in his memory in Brazil in 2013 by Eduardo Kobra.


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Daniel Libeskind

Architectural Drawings by Daniel Libeskind at Ermanno Tedeschi Gallery

Architect Daniel Libeskind started his architectural career by spending around 20 years teaching and developing his theories  and design rather than actually  design and creating any buildings.

Royal Ontario Museum Napkin Sketch


With his design of The Jewish Museum, Berlin he showed that as an architect he could turn his ideas and teachings into buildings that are renowned and innovative.

The Jewish Museum Berlin. Daniel Libeskind.

His designs are are bold and geometric with clean lines. His buildings incorporate glass, metal and other sturdy reflective materials. His style is distinctive and recognisable.

Contemporary Jewish Museum - Daniel Libeskind
Contemporary Jewish Museum – Daniel Libeskind


Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück, Germany by Architects Studio Daniel Libeskind 

 His buildings:

Jewish Museum, Berlin, “Between the lines”, Berlin, Germany, 1989 -1999

Felix Nussbaum Haus, “Museum ohne Ausgang”, Osnabreck, Germany, 1995-1999

Danish Jewish Museum, “Mitzvah”, Copenhagen, Denmark, 1996-2003

Extension to the Victoria & Albert Museum, “The Spiral”, London, England. 1996-2006

Imperial War Museum North, “Earth time”, Manchester, England, 1997 -2002

Studio Weil, Private gallery for Barbara Weil, Port d’Andratx, Mallorca, Spain, 1998-2003

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2001 by Daniel Libeskind
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2001 by Daniel Libeskind

Jewish Museum San Fransisco, “L’Chai’m: To Life”, San Francisco, CA, 1998- 2005

Maurice Wohl Convention Centre, Bar-Ilan, “The book and the wall”, Bar- Ilan University, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2000-2004

Extension to the Denver Art Museum, “The Eye and the Wing”, Denver, CO, 2000-2005

London Metropolitan University Post-Graduate Centre, “Orion”, London, England, 2001-2003

World Trade Centre Site Plan, “Memory Foundations”, New York, NY, 2002

One World Trade Center. NYC. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill/ Daniel Libeskind, David Childs. 2006-13. 1776 ft tall.
One World Trade Center. NYC. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill/ Daniel Libeskind, David Childs. 2006-13. 1776 ft tall
London Metropolitan University designed by Daniel Libeskind
London Metropolitan University designed by Daniel Libeskind



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