It was Jude, over at Travel Words, who with her talk of patterns encouraged me to revisit the incredible Salão Árabe at the headquarters of Porto’s Commercial Association. The room is full of patterns!
This week Jude asked us to shoot patterns from a different perspective, she suggests looking up or looking down. And to avoid being overwhelmed by the room, you find yourself doing exactly that when you enter the Salão Árabe, the last room on your tour of Palácio da Bolsa.
The style is Moorish and dates back to the 13th/14th century. It was recreated here in the 19th century by Gustavo Adolfo Gonçalves de Sousa. Gustavo was a Porto native (Tripeiros) and had trained as a civil engineer. He worked on numerous building projects in Porto, but this room in the Palácio da Bolsa must have been one of his highlights. It took nearly 18 years to complete, which may sound a long time but the palace’s intricately carved granite staircase, which he also worked on, took 60 years!
His inspiration for the room was Alhambra, a 14th century Islamic palace in Spain. The palace was built by the Nasrids, who were the last Moorish dynasty to rule the Iberian Peninsula. Their art inspired architecture, influenced by Spanish, Iranian and African cultures, is renowned for its carved plaster walls with lace like patterns, Arabic inscriptions, and the extensive use of muqarnas (Mocárabe). It is an incredibly sumptuous form of architecture.
Porto’s Commercial Association couldn’t resist adding their own touches even in the Arabic inscriptions, which are part of the repeating patterns throughout the room. Apparently those in the small red squares read: “Gloria a Alá”, in the blue rectangles: “Alá keeps Caliph Miriam II”, in homage to Queen D. Maria II and on the green shields it reads “Allah above all”. oh and just in case you were wondering every that is coloured yellow/gold is gold leaf. No wonder it took 18 years to carve and paint!