Block in Senhora da Luz

Eduardo Souto de Moura 


Absence of display
Hans Ibelings

Suffice it to say that this is a freestanding volume containing three apartments and a communal roof terrace overlooking the Atlantic, above a commercial space on the ground floor and an underground car park.

The three units consist of west-facing living spaces with an ocean view, and bedrooms facing the small street to the east of the building. In between are the kitchens, the stairs and the elevator. An alley leads to the main entrance of the apartments; at the other side, a ramp gives access to the parking in the basement. The north and south elevations are mainly closed, while the east elevation is partially open, with deeply recessed windows to ensure privacy and to allow for small balconies. The west elevation is glazed, behind the same concrete grid as on the opposite side, offering a vertical framing of the horizontality of the oceanic panorama.

The upper storeys are set back, to scale the volume in its context. Similarly, the form is calibrated to be parallel to the street and the neighbouring building, without in any way reducing the verisimilitude of complete rectangularity.

This architecture intentionally lacks an interesting form, and comes almost without colour. There is no flaunting of exquisite materials, no suggestion of design virtuosity. The effect of this deliberate absence of display is paradoxical in a setting of fairly ordinary buildings. Surrounded by architectural unpretentiousness, this project stands out as supernormal, to adopt the powerful term of Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison. And exactly because of its supernormality, it manages to unveil the everyday charm of its neighbours, which suddenly appear to have an inconspicuous quality that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. This quality would most certainly have been eclipsed by any architecture that ostentatiously aimed at being exceptional. Conversely, this building can fully articulate its supernormality only because its surroundings are normal.

What is true for the exterior applies equally to the interior. The organization of the programme for each unit has a similar self-evidence as the external appearance. Neither interior nor exterior are conventional or standard, yet they both have a seemingly inescapable logic associated with the customary. This architecture not only suggests that nothing could be added or taken away without diminishing its beauty or logic; this also implies that these two categories overlap here. The beauty resides in the logic.




Location Porto, Portugal
Client LPSM, Empreendimento Sra. da Luz
Project 2009-2014
Completion 2016
Architecture Souto Moura Arquitectos Lda
Author Eduardo Souto de Moura
Team Collaborators André Campos, Luis Peixoto, José Carlos Mariano, Ana Patrícia Sobral, Maria Otília Aires Pereira, Susana Oliveira Marques, Rute Peixoto
Structural Engineering Rui Furtado, Carlos Quinaz, AFAconsult
Electrical Engineering Maria da Luz, AFAconsult
Mechanical Engineering Marco Carvalho, AFAconsult
Contrator Matriz Sociedade de Construções Lda