Typically for us in Olhão da Restauração we stumbled across this self-guided tour. We had been visiting the town museum, as there is an interesting exhibition there at the moment and as we left we decided we’d take a stroll to the sea front. However it wasn’t long before I spotted the signs for the tour, and so we never made it to the sea front! The self-guided tour is on Rua do Comércio and Avenida da República, and looks in depth at fifteen of the late 19th and early 20th century buildings which dominate these streets, and how they have changed since they were first constructed. It begins just off Avenida da República however we discovered the first information board on Rua do Comércio, I thought I would start the post there too. The board, numbered 13, was for one of the most striking buildings in Olhão.
A 1920s construction, which the board says was inspired by arabesque designs with elements of art deco. The ground floor currently houses a flower shop and boutique, but the first floor looks unoccupied and somewhat unloved at the moment. We next discovered number 14; once home to the Council’s judicial staff but is now home to an excellent shoe shop!
Number 15 I had presumed dated from the 1920s however a closer inspection reveals that the exterior is in fact from the 1940s when significant changes were made to the original building. As I look over my shoulder I discovered a fourth board, and it was at this point I realised this was a proper self-guided tour, and not just a series of random information boards.
It was time for us to retrace our steps and discover the remaining dozen buildings, but not before taking another shot of one my favourites – the wedding cake house!
What intrigues me about this tour is that many of the buildings I would have expected to be on it, are not, such as the church and recreational centre. And others that many of us walk past without a second look are included. Number 12 however certainly isn’t in the latter category. It was once a bank, and did in fact catch my eye a year or so ago because it had been refurbished. It would make a wonderful shop or cafe, but is still unoccupied.
Number 11, a early 20th century construction, made the news last year as the building next door collapsed. Number 11 doesn’t look that stable either but is for sale if you are looking for an exciting and challenging renovation project.
Number 10 is opposite, and would also make an impressive home. Not a building I had really noticed before as all my attention is taken by its striking neighbour. Two of its neighbours on the other side are also included in the tour. Interestingly the one I found most photogenic is not included and the information boards make much of the plans despite their simplicity, which reinforces my view that the buildings selected were mostly a result of their plans rather than their architectural merit. However that is what makes this tour so interesting, your attention is occasionally directed to buildings which otherwise you may have overlooked such as the driving school and hunter’s lodge.
Number 7 on the list I had decided to photograph even before I realised it was on the tour. I liked the colour! At this stage this was only the second one we had come across that had ‘blue prints’, and interestingly the information board highlights that the construction matched the plans. I wonder if the two things are connected?
Number 6 also has ‘blue prints’ but has undergone significant change since it was first constructed. The team behind the tour are clearly not impressed by the changes on the ground floor, describing the changes as quite out of character with the original design. Whilst they are right, at least these changes have not affected the feel of the avenue. There are some hideous modern four to eight storey buildings along this street.
The next building is a great example of how Avenida da República has been ruined. Number 5 is not the problem. It, as you can see, has been sympathetically restored. However it is overshadowed by the two modern monstrosities either side. Such a shame they were allowed but it is not an unusual occurrence around here.
We never found number 4. I know I was momentarily distracted by an art deco building but we did look around for it. We didn’t miss the next two, albeit for a moment I thought number 3 was the pink one.
Unlike number four our final building, the official first one, was easy to find but bizarrely was away from Avenida da República. I couldn’t understand until MrB pointed out that the building opposite was the home of the team who had created the tour! I am still curious though as why they didn’t finish the tour here and intrigued why they haven’t included their own building which is as interesting as many as the others on the tour.
Number 1 is called ‘the large house with blue tiles’, and it is enormous. If you click on the plans in the gallery you will see it has numerous rooms in the warehouse downstairs, and then there are two residential apartments above. The architrave, which the Portuguese call a platibanda, is stunning but it and the rest of the building, is in urgent of need of restoration. Do hope it doesn’t go the way of number 11 and its neighbour, which are just a few metres away.
I thoroughly enjoyed our unexpected urban walking adventure, it took about an hour for us to complete but it could easily take you longer as there are so many other buildings to look at. It has certainly made me look at Avenida da República in a different light. I only wish I had discovered it for Jo before she left. Still this Monday walk will be here for when she returns, and maybe she’ll even be exploring it herself in a few days.
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