Text description provided by the architects. When intervening in an existing building, there is always a confrontation between the old and the new. A building from the XIX century, located at São Marcos street, in Braga’s historical centre, is the starting point from which the project develops, whilst highlighting its existing qualities. By meticulously analyzing the building characteristics and at the same time addressing the needs of the new program, the project aims to create a coherent and harmonious whole.
When analyzing the existing structure, one notices one of the most common aspects in buildings with these typological characteristics: its flexibility. This flexibility is clearly visible in the way the building has been divided and occupied over time, maintaining its shape and structure unaltered. The building’s flexibility arises from its original structure. It is possible to identify a central distribution core that provides access to two zones, each with direct relation to both facades. The generous size of these zones, without any particular use defined, allows them to function together or isolated.
The project answers to the client’s need of dividing the 2nd and 3rd floors into two dwellings, whilst keeping the existing central distribution staircase unaltered. To this end, it is proposed to add a space-dividing device. This device preserves and highlights the staircase’s qualities: the natural lighting and ventilation, its function as a distribution space and aggregating core for the entire building.
The careful implementation of this device allows, on the one hand, for these already existing attributes to be enhanced and on the other to provide this space with new qualities, namely, as an entry and separation element for one of the dwellings. The structure comprises of a wooden skeleton covered with translucent polycarbonate panels, which allows this central and unifying space to continue benefiting from the natural light and ventilation, while granting the inhabitants’ privacy.
The division of the two floors creates two dwellings: a studio and a two bedroom apartment. The studio benefits from the generous space encompassing the area between the stairwell and the back facade. The two bedroom extends combines two floors. On the second floor, the project takes advantage of the great height created by the slope of the roof. In the living area, a functional nucleus allows for the creation of a mezzanine with a new living space.
Whenever possible, the preservation and rehabilitation of the original floors, wooden frames and decorative elements of the skylight and ceilings was a priority. The confrontation between the old and the new, the needs brought by the client’s program and the intention to preserve the qualities of the existing structure are the three axes that have guided the whole project. By responding to the contemporary challenges, by enhancing its original qualities, the building achieves its metamorphosis.