Located next to the opera house, in the heart of Chiado, one of Lisbon’s most elegant quarters, this late eighteenth century building has been exceptionally rehabilitated, bringing together historic heritage, contemporary architecture and modern art.
This unique historic property offers six modern apartments with restored original interiors, designed by the award-winning architect Samuel Torres de Carvalho and specially commissioned artwork by internationally renowned ornamental artists and sculptors José Pedro Croft and Iva Viana. It combines modern-day comfort with a remarkable collection of historic tiles, original mural paintings, decorative ceilings and new contemporary Portuguese artwork, turning Ivens Arte into a sculptured space.
The building includes some privileged amenities, such as a modern living management and a sophisticated automatic car-parking system, making this one of the most exquisite real-estate and art investments in Europe.
Ivens Arte, sculptured space.
Originally built in 1790, following the earthquake of 1755, this building is an exception to the standardised design of the reconstruction, given that the area was destined to noble houses. However, it was not built as a palace nor as a tenant’s house, it was a hybrid building with two differentiated entrances, allowing for both a noble residence in the first floor and tenants in the upper floors. This particular architectural solution reflected the new social order and the rising of a prominent urban bourgeoisie.
The original building had a commercial ground floor, three stories high and a liveable rooftop. It was built by Julião Pereira de Castro, who inhabited the third floor and roof. He was most notably known as the official supplier of ‘snow’ (ice) to the Portuguese Royal House, which he served for four decades. In 1812, the ownership passes to the Miranda family who introduced significant changes in 1814-18 and again in 1826, adding a new floor and roof. They will retain the property for over a century, eventually selling it in 1918 to Isidoro José de Freitas, whose family kept the building until the late twentieth century. For more than two hundred years the building served as home for many families, mainly merchants, traders, foreigners (English, French and Italian) and several members of the opera house, such as musicians, dancers, actors and professors.
The interior decoration followed the fabric’s evolution, reflecting at the same time the social distinction of its occupiers. Thus, the first floor – manly occupied by foreign businessmen - presents remarkable tile panels and mural paintings from the late Pombalino period (rococo style), while the upper floors – a later addition – present an historic interior of the neoclassical style. The façade had no particular decorative distinction, but while the building looked as a common Pombalino building from the outside, from the very beginning was an unexpected surprise on the inside.
During the second half of the twentieth century the building was subject to various modifications and poorly maintained entering in progressive decay. In 1989 the precarious condition and the construction of a new tunnel for the metropolitan line raised concerns about the structural condition of the building, being the demolition considered at that time.
Historic buildings are often a challenge for architects and developers. There is a natural tension between what is actually there and what one would like to have in its place. The Ivens Arte original condition was the starting point for a thorough analysis of what was there: remarkable historic interiors with high quality decorative work, hidden behind decades of alterations and neglect. So the initial architectural methodology was one of simplification: to remove all that was redundant in order to go back to its original spatial organization and decorative schemes. This in turn prompted a new solution for the location of the service areas, the social areas and the private rooms. It also induced the south orientation of the new apartments and the creation new accessibilities (introducing an elevator and a state-of-the-art car-parking system).
From an early stage, the historic dimension was to be preserved and enhanced through rigorous conservation methodologies. But modern-day standards of living had to be conceived in a discrete and respectful way: heating and ventilation, water and energy supplies, modern kitchens and elegant bathrooms were integrated in the context of historic interiors. This was probably the greatest challenge. One of fine detail and great technical skill.
The apartments’ interiors were reinvented by the architect team through the introduction of independent blocks that preserves the original decorative surfaces of the building. This design approach, called as ‘devices’, combine bathrooms and wardrobes that would simply rest over the original pavement, away from the walls, with beautiful design and modern sanitary equipment. At the same time, all the necessary infrastructures (such as the heating system) was designed to be non-invasive, included under the original pavements and ceilings, while the electric system was carefully introduced in new elements, such as door-frames and wall skirtings, to respect the mural paintings.
Additionally, architectural innovation led to the conception of new typologies in the upper floors (like a triplex apartment) and some surprising glass volumes projected outside the building, remind us of the contemporary design that co-exists in this historic building.