These two architects formed part of a generation that adhered to the principles of the Modern Movement and they worked together professionally for 25 years (1947-1973), producing more than 700 projects. They were responsible for the modernisation of countless commercial establishments, factories, primary schools, permanent housing (single-family detached houses and multi-family housing blocks) and temporary accommodation (hotels and tourist complexes), with their activity also extending into the areas of design and the arts.
“Architecture from other times”
April 11 – June 18, 2017
Garagem Sul – CCB
Praça do Império, 1449-003 Lisboa
Famous for being the precursors in introducing the American model of the snack-bar into Portugal, for seventeen years they were also responsible for the projects for single-family detached homes that the magazine EVA distributed through a special draw each Christmas.
Victor Palla (1922-2006) and Joaquim Bento d’Almeida (1918-1997) met in Oporto after applying for a transfer from the School of Fine Arts in Lisbon, which was still under a manifest academic and oppressive teaching. This “pair of architects”, who strongly adhered to Modern Architecture and soon engaged in fighting for the profession, created the practice in 1946 and remained active for over 25 years.
The architectural production of Victor Palla and Bento d’Almeida has seen approximately seven hundred projects built in Portugal and Africa, but few are the works that have remained unchanged. Based on the architects’ legacy, the existing information was completed with additional ones, from private collections and public archives, in order to compile four typologies that are representative of their work, for this exhibition: Retail businesses, Houses, Buildings and Facilities.
At the end of World War II, a large number of retailers decided it was time to invest in the appearance of their establishments. Victor Palla and Bento d’Almeida had an active role in the renewal of several businesses, from snack bars and delicatessens, to hairdressers, pharmacies, banks and shops. Located in existing buildings, the refurbishment of the facades became particularly important, not only as the crowning moment of a modern identity in the urban context, but mainly because it acknowledged the emergence of retail businesses with new approaches to welcoming customers.
These architects were responsible for bringing to Portugal the American snack bar model; however, the absence of specific furniture and modern accessories for this new type of establishment in the Portuguese market led to an extensive furniture and equipment design study, including lettering. The modernity of these various types of establishments reached what we now call “brand image”, which can be identified by the attractive and dynamic environment that these architects managed to create.
The more than one hundred housing designs that Victor Palla and Bento d’Almeida developed provided limitless opportunities to strengthen their work. Several commissions for houses in the city, the country or on the beach reached their drawing boards. By exploring the “new architecture”, they increased the volume of the house on pilotis, used the flat roof as a solarium-terrace, designed long horizontal openings, resorted to modern roof overhangs and pergolas for shade and often integrated works of art or furniture they designed.
From 1952 onward, the Christmas issue of the Eva magazine raffled a house designed by the two architects. Built anywhere in mainland Portugal, chosen by the lucky winner, this house would be fully equipped with modern furniture and equipment. This prize was presented in the pages of the magazine through coloured images where the perspective gained huge visibility. In fact, hand drawn perspectives were a widely used work method by their practice, giving clients the possibility of seeing the future architectural work immediately and three-dimensionally.
In a Critical Review phase of the Modern Movement, the architects take up a more vernacular housing design, drawing lessons from traditional architecture. Thus, the orthogonality and the apparent modern effort give way to other geometric grids and to the use of traditional materials related to the intervention site.
The work of the Victor Palla and Bento d’Almeida practice has approximately sixty projects of housing buildings commissioned by private investors, set in centrally located and well-established areas of the capital. The architects endeavoured to address the investor and the Town Hall’s ideas, often working in disagreement with the regulations and the legislation of the time, “a bizarre world that has nothing to do with architecture” (1960).
Concerned with the importance of the facades and their relationship with the adjacent buildings, their arrangement display modernity through the parts of a whole, the graphic design, and the use of different materials, such as tiles with patterns designed by the architects. The modern roof overhangs indicate the carefully designed entrance; several recesses underline shopping areas integrated in the foundations; and balconies protrude beyond the facade.
Simultaneously, they received commissions to design office buildings, some of which for the headquarters of large international companies. The plan, free and independent from the structure, allowed for a greater flexibility of the workspaces.