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Universidade do Porto

The ruins of the Madre de Deus de Monchique Convent located in the historical center of Oporto acts as a central matter on an academic investigation where we question the conscious intervention on historic buildings. The old monastery ruins begin as a starting point for the awareness of its heritage and historical value, as the interpretation of three case studies concerning the reconversion of old monasteries into lodges in Portugal, gives purpose for a quest on how architectural design can retrieve the memory of the old convent, acknowledging the creative interpretation of its values and functions, onto its contemporary requalification and reuse.

By this means, the new use of the building takes advantage of the old monastery compartments and its functions. In the south wing, the uppers levels are designed as a hostel/residence recovering the old cells and dormitories partitions, as the lower levels use the old refectory as a restaurant, and the old workshops serve as new staff and technical spaces. On the north wing is designed new dwellings which allow the building to be used as a collective housing complex. The name given to the project: “Dormitories of Monchique” refers to its main function and its general theme which comprise its various usages.

The transformation and metamorphosis of Monchique’s Convent intents to operate in an aesthetically minimal way, filling the sensitive points in need of recovery. The new details are designed in corten steel, due to its aged texture and contemporary aesthetic, as opposed to the expression of the old stone and wood cut, in order to state the new parts.

Naturally, over the years, the vegetation will cover the exterior walls, as the rain will fall over the tiles, sliding its sediments over the facades, and the rust from the steel will leave its stains over the convent wall’s. This intervention will also belong to the past of this historical building, and at last, the aura of time and patina will blunt the theories of distinction between the old and new.