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A crossroads of history and the present


A crossroads of history and the present
By Caterina Testa -

The area west of Porto and north of the Douro valley is a typical in-between landscape. National highways cut across the tail end of urban sprawl in a region where traces of the recent rural past are still visible. Clumps of trees and industrial sheds have taken the place of tilled fields; old farmhouses and ancient hamlets are interspersed by recently built maisonettes and holiday homes. The little town of Gandra is part of this transformed rural world. Its rua Padre Vigario is lined with the courtyards of the few remaining farmhouses, the gardens of recent detached houses and the entrances to warehouses and small craft businesses. Despite this medley, the bustling activity of the area still centers on the old urban nucleus.

Along this main road, the ruins of a dry stone wall speak of an ancient landscaping history. Beyond the walls of what was once a late 19th century farmhouse, the land slopes gently down to the valley. It was here that the new owners wanted to site their house.

Commissioned by the client to design a detached family home, architecture practice AND_RÉ, founded by Bruno André and Francisco Salgado Ré, saw the site as a great opportunity to put their idea of architecture into practice. With a track record that includes a wide range of different size programs for an extremely broad range of geographical sites, decoding and picking up on the specifics of context is for them a baseline requirement for any architectural project.

Right from the first on-site inspection, the major potential offered by the old walls was immediately apparent: a means of retaining the past by making the old stones part of a new architectural narrative.

Once the client’s initial perplexity had been allayed, the practice was given complete freedom to develop its site-specific program based on telling the story of the place through the ancient stones while the new volume - a silent neutral ally -...

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