Posted in Projects on 3 May, 2016

Pushing the boundaries to create a modern luxury hotel that is sheltered within a cluster of 12 old townhouse buildings, lead designer Cristina Matos has added 50 rooms to the Vintage Pestana Porto. Hamish Kilburn reviews it…

In the centre of a city famed for its forward-thinking architecture, the Vintage Pestana Porto takes the form of a hotel in a unique shell. The home-away-from-home atmosphere adopted by many international hotels over the years has often been limited to an interior-design decision – but not here. Two iconic bridges, to me, secure Porto’s architectural tone. One being the Maria Pia Bridge, famously designed by Gustave Eiffel. His assistant, D.Luis, designed the other. With views of both from the riverbank, a cluster of 12 buildings merge to form a contemporary hotel. From the outside looking in, the different height of each building makes it unclear where the hotel begins and where it ends. Authentic architecture matched with the beautiful scenery inspired lead designer Cristina Matos. “The location by the river in the historic area of the port plays a role of great importance to the hotel and was an essential influence for the entire project,” she explains. The multicoloured façade – some buildings exteriorly tiled with the traditional town colour palette of blue and white – reveals a traditional Portuguese style. Please step inside – but first leave your expectations at the door.

The main entrance to the hotel is positioned in the first building nearest the city centre. The lobby has a contemporary style that is warm and inviting. On the left, the bar sits in front of a large colourful mural on the wall representing the quirky side of the city at night. To the right is a subtle check-in desk. Black and white photographs separate the two areas and have been carefully curated. Each frame differs in size but together they form a striking feature wall. “There are several photographs of the vineyards, the boats, the Ribeira and other related areas,” explains Matos. “The Vintage is associated with the art of welcoming guests to our gastronomy and the local port. The end idea was to recreate this sensation with a modern twist.”

Past the check-in desk and down some steps, it’s hard not to marvel at the bookshelves and relax in the private library. Idiosyncratic furniture pieces, such as a suitcase sitting on stilts to form a side table, provide a perfect ambiance for modern travellers wanting to unwind.

Guests are soon introduced to the lifts and the unorthodox navigation around the hotel. Due to the buildings’ different levels, access to many of the rooms requires guests to use two different lift systems. Walking through the corridors is an adventure in itself. The glass bridge on floor two, which interrupts the corridor, marks the end of one building and beginning of the next and shows just how narrow each structure is.

It was inevitable to run into challenges when adding rooms to an old building. “Each is different and unique, which was a challenge to achieve,” admits Matos. “This is due to the characteristics of that zone, the stone, and a property that occupies part of a block of buildings that date back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries and are classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO.  Thus, it was a challenge to mix the new with the old while finding the best way to preserve our heritage.”

Modern décor is evident throughout the guestrooms and it becomes clear they have been designed around its location. 60 per cent of the rooms within the hotel offer a riverside perspective. “The original stonewalls of the building were restored and mirrors were strategically placed within the hotel to maximise the surrounding views outside,” adds Matos.

Rib Beef & Wine is a stylish steakhouse that can be found on the ground floor with a separate public access from the riverbank. During the recovery process the architectural teams focused on preserving and recovering the noble existing elements such as the original stone.

Its recent five-month renovation has been designed with a mix of many influences in mind. For example, the duel-toned graphic palm tree wallpaper from Cole & Sons shields much of the space in this area and separates others to create a contemporary, fun environment. The bar’s balcony and sofas were manufactured locally with the materials being paramount in their design. The checkered  carpet was designed by Matos herself who also played with several details to be found throughout the restaurant – metal studs in the doors panelling, decorative pieces in the furniture, framed old pictures and geometric wallpaper. Having said that, most of the furnishings were auction-sourced vintage and then restored for the project. “With the collaboration of our carpenter, we were able to draw and create some specific furnishings for each zone,” explains Matos.

At Vintage Pestana Porto, contemporary and comfortable rooms are housed within the traditional townhouses. Matos has succeeded, in both the private and public areas of the hotel, to create a sophisticated vintage atmosphere that is modern throughout, utilising the space to further add character to the city of Porto.

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