Offices for the Architects Association for Northern Portugal Are a Wonderful Mix of Old and New

CC BY 2.0. Enter through the big gate/ Lloyd Alter

A minimalist and discreet addition to some exuberant older houses.

The OASRN, or Ordem dos Arquitectos Secção Regional Norte, regulates and promotes architecture in the northern region of Portugal, centered on Porto. In a gutsy move back in 2002 they bought a pair of run-down matching townhouses that had been built for two sisters in what was then a really sketchy part of town. A few years ago they were renovated by NPS Arquitectos, and it is a great demonstration of how you can integrate the new and old.

Looking down on to the roof of the addition

Looking down on to the roof of the addition/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0The architects told Dezeen: "Our proposal established three types of architectural intervention – conservation or restoration, renovation, and new construction."

walking toward the entry

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The two old houses had a laneway between, which you walk down to get to the new entrance in the addition.

Exhibition area

Exhibition area/CC BY 2.0

There is an exhibition area on the ground floor and a multipurpose room on the second in the addition.

Lloyd Alter speaking in Portugal

© João Gavião

I did not take nearly enough photos, but that is me doing a lecture on the second floor, one of the two I did in Porto.

Corridor connecting old and new

Corridor connecting old and new/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Corridors then feed back to the front, to the meticulously restored old houses, which are used for administrative functions. You can see the transition from old to new in the materials.

Meeting room that anyone can use

Meeting room that anyone can use/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

I particularly liked this room, which is made available to any member of the association, free of charge. What a wonderful service for young architects who don't have a decent meeting room or place to impress clients.
The new spaces are so simple and minimalist, in complete contrast to the beautifully restored old houses. From Dezeen:

In the white room

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

"The image of the new building would be simple and discreet, in contrast with the exuberance of the existing buildings," the architects added. "We wanted to create a new composition unit between the different constructions."

In Toronto where I live, the Ontario Association of Architects sold its urban architectural gem of a headquarters and moved out to the suburbs. It was such a contrast to see this wonderful example of urban revitalization, such a sensitive restoration, such thoughtful work by both the architects and the Association.


Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

For more and better photos see Dezeen.