House in Ovar


João Morgado

House in Ovar by Nelson Resende Architects occupies a site along Rua Dr. José Falcão, a main arterial road in Ovar, Portugal.

Af Elliott Webb

Maintaining a dense occupation of the street and showcasing logic of continuity (not rupture), this building executes clever hierarchies of space, delivering a beautifully restored piece of architecture intertwined with a sensible and explorative modern addition.

This project spans two typical block sizes; while read as two distinct built structures from the street, a merged singular home is created beyond. Nelson Resende implemented a series of careful interventions that propose to use as much as possible of the existing building while integrating the demands of the modern household. An introduction of a new hierarchy of spaces within and a clever reversal of use on the street elevation now define and liberate the interior of the site while maintaining an external logic of continuity, giving back to the historic street.

The scale, room sizes and implied permanence of restoring the original building informed where the majority of the social spaces would reside. They were destined for the main building as a means of easily adapting the original structure and compartments to a more open and liveable arrangement. The elevation of the old building directly engages with the street through large windows, seeing these newly programmed spaces opportunistically engaging with the street. With minimal intervention to the interiors’ materiality and detailing, new storage spaces are pushed to the perimeter, defining its new open-plan use in an attempt to reveal and retain some trace of the past. This humble intervention does not seek to make space an exhibit and avoids a radical removal of the past beyond the affectation of the historical façade. Its sensibility shows a re-purposing of the existing structure only allowed by the placement of other spaces of contained scales to the secondary structure. These contained spaces are delegated within the secondary structure and wrap around the perimeter of the neighboring block, forming an internal courtyard creating new elevations with opportunities for the spaces to interact with the garden.

This new secondary structure begins at the street as a garage/workshop and beyond contains two new bedrooms, which wrap around the side boundary where there are the laundry and storage facilities. This structure retains the block’s sense of scale through its mode of construction; a traditional pitched tiled roof and a patterned exterior. Ensuring a historically dense occupation of the street, its façade and entry threshold defines its nature as modern. With an almost total opening to the street, an unusual practice to the pattern of the urban fabric, it allows use as a garage/workshop and in turn opens the two bedrooms behind to enjoy the inner grounds shielded from the street. Its unique two-layered structure gives depth to the façade: an illusion of a tiled exterior more durable than the cracked tiles of many old buildings in Portugal. Occupation of the perimeter – a familiar urban move – now liberates the interior of the property, allowing greater access and enjoyment to the two new bedrooms and sheltered outdoor area at ground level.

The attic floor of the main dwelling is foreseen as a multipurpose space for support and general use. A new vertical access is introduced as well as three new dormer windows, breaking up the perimeter of storage and allowing in natural light. To preserve the integrity of the roof structure and to open up this space as a singularity, it wasn’t subdivided, despite the introduction of a toilet. Instead, the bathroom — concealed in a blue box — sits apart from the pitched roof as an object in the room, differentiating itself as separate from the original construction so as to not disturb the original space.

The new architectural features in this building validate the logic of the architectural intervention and acquisition of the property. It combines the best of two distinct times, preserving a rich and increasingly scarce heritage and dismissed urban model, and introducing a program that tackles issues of contemporary housing. This beautiful work by Nelson Resende guarantees the prolongation of life of an old building and creates inspiration for projects tackling similar contexts. Even with new additions and the secondary structure’s intervention, its respect for scale and structure and reinterpretation of space and hierarchy avoid cultural and architectural destruction by showcasing a logic that should be reinterpreted in Portugal’s residential architecture.