INTERVENTION IN VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE: THE LESSON OF FERNANDO TÁVORA
This article seeks to analyse the methodology and principles underlying the interventions of the Portuguese architect and professor Fernando Távora (1923–2005) in the conservation and renovation of vernacular architecture in the north of Portugal. The publication of his essay O problema da Casa Portuguesa (1945), his attendance at the last CIAM meetings (1952–1959) and his participation in the Survey on Popular Architecture in Portugal (1956–1961) reaffirmed his belief in creating a modern architecture that respected the values of local traditions. The features of the so-called “third way” – building a bridge between tradition and modernity – are to be found not only in his ex novo works, but also in his conservation and renovation of rural constructions, such as the house of Quinta da Cavada in Briteiros (1989–90) and another house in Pardelhas (1993–99). Based on the evidence of these case studies, this paper will focus on the features of his particular modus operandi: a case-by-case approach, a deep knowledge of vernacular constructions, the recovery of traditional materials and techniques supported by the ancestral knowledge of local craftsmen, respect for the preexisting scale through the use of ‘anonymous design’ and ‘subtle modernity’, visible in such gestures as the colour treatment, furniture design, joinery, light fixtures, door handles or metalwork. Finally, the paper will also reflect on the importance of Távora’s teachings about interventions in vernacular architecture in Portugal, as well as on the future challenges for the preservation of this scattered heritage in the light of the current abandonment and depopulation of rural areas.