Architectural Design: The Old and the New

There are the wonderful buildings in Portugal that go back one, two or more centuries and there is the new which reflects on what has been built before, providing glimpses into the past but designed and built today with an eye towards the future.

We will start with the past and the Casa da Alentejo.

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Originally built in the 1600’s, the Alverca Palace was the residence of the Viscount of Alverca and his family. The family abandoned the building in the early 1900’s and it was converted into Lisbon’s first casino when interior alterations were made, hence, the rooms that are styled in Louis XVI rococo style. In 1932, the casino went bankrupt and the building ended up being rented out and turned into a social club for the people of the Alentejo region and became the “Casa do Alentejo” frequented initially by the Alentejan elite – the few rich landowners of the rural region.

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In the 1970’s, the winds of change brought on by the political shift in Portugal, Casa do Alentejo became more democratic. The restaurant opened its doors to all but maintained a menu featuring the dishes of the Alentejo.

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The courtyard is Moorish in design and there are two rooms in the rococo style of Louis XVI decorated with mirrors, sculptures and a large ceiling fresco. 

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Entrance into the building is free and you can enjoy dinner at the restaurant. There are also guided tours in the afternoon.

Speaking of the Alentejo and architecture, in terms of contemporary architectural design in Portugal, it is all about simplicity, a sensitivity to the natural environment and using our resources wisely. For example, understanding sun angles and incorporating the knowledge into a design or creating natural ventilation system through the location of openings, all to use less energy.

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This house is in the Alentejo and designed by Atelier Data, built in 2018. Photo credits go to Richard John Seymour.

There is a simplicity and feeling of infinite open expanses in the Alentejo. It feels peaceful and each view looks like a painting.

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The Alentejo blue

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One day I took my neighbor’s advice and decided to visit the Miradouro do Jardim do Torel (basically, the viewpoint of the Torel Garden).

There is a trolley off of Avenida da Liberdade that takes you to the street leading to the park and viewpoint.

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My house is directly across from this miradouro. It’s that tiny white square on the side of the hill with a tile roof. Let me know if you can find it 😉 It’s kind of like Where’s Waldo?

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The surrounding quiet neighborhood is made up of beautiful old and very large homes that have been well maintained. Take a walk around and you will also find another park with ducks and other features children enjoy, Jardim Braancamp Frefre, but make sure you take the long way around to enjoy the neighborhood first.

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I will leave you with this view from the Chiado to the Castelo de Sao Jorge taken on a walking tour I joined for a day.

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Dora Taylor

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