Casa do Conto, located in an emerging neighborhood of Porto, Portugal, is a 19th century bourgeois home restored as a guesthouse. After suffering a fire only days before its inauguration in 2009, it underwent another restoration project to renew the interiors, including wooden ceilings and ornamental plaster moldings that had been destroyed.
To restore the spirit of this cultural treasure, Casa do Conto asked R2 Design to reinterpret the original decorative ceiling motifs in several of the rooms and common areas. Rather than dwelling on the past, the designers chose to break free of figurative reinterpretations of the preexisting designs and instead took on a more conceptual approach. A group of individuals familiar with the space, who had been involved with its restoration process before the fire, were asked to write about each of the spaces. Taking cues from the name of the residence itself – “House of Tales” – the resulting accounts were rendered on the ceilings of its rooms.
Each text was assigned a different graphic style, allowing the subject matter and tone to guide their graphic interpretation. Using the fonts Ordinaire by David Poulard, Neutrafaceslab designed by Susana Carvalho and Kai Bernau and art directed by Christian Schwartz, Jannon by Frederick Storm, Dada by de Valence, and Futura by Paul Renner, R2 set the phrases into concrete panels using Styrofoam letters placed in a formwork. The use of concrete created limitations: the type size needed to ensure legibility and the depth of the type was determined by the steel bracing for the concrete slabs.
Featuring a different story in each room reinforces the individual identity of each space, but also sparks guests’ imagination and encourages them to explore the entire residence. In the common areas, fragments of text from each of the rooms and authors were composed along the ceiling to construct a collage of phrases that allow guests to perceive the stories as a whole, providing a colorful and comprehensive portrait of this cultural gem.
“The designers of this project reinterpreted the presence and cultural spirit of this historic building with great sensitivity, understanding, and creativity. Rather than trying to restore or recreate the original artwork in the space, they instead found an unexpected way to project the same content/subject matter through the use of typography, in turn creating an eerie/haunting installation that undoubtedly ‘sticks with’ the viewer after they leave the space.”
“Excellent integration of graphics and architecture. Graphics are located in areas that the viewer is surprised to discover––ceilings, side walls, and floor—which provides even more impact.”
Lizá Defossez Ramalho, Artur Rebelo (design); Nuno Bastos (technical design)
Álvaro Domingues, André Tavares, Filipa Leal, Jorge Figueira, Pedro Bandeira, Nuno Grande (texts)
Pedras de Ronfos Lda