Tucked away from prying eyes of downtown Porto and from Campo Alegre street, lies on the cliffside overlooking the Douro the place of learning for the architects of the city of Porto. If you’ve gone westwards by boat down the river, you might have seen its bright white towers on the cliffside. It is none other than the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto (Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto, or FAUP for short), and an absolute must see for any modern architecture enthusiast in the city.
The FAUP campus, looking fresh from its rather recent paint job, was constructed in the 1980s. The architecture school itself was integrated with Fine Arts until 1979, but when it was separated and became a faculty in its own right thanks to prominent Portuguese modernist architects such as Fernando Távora, it was soon evident that it needed its own facilities. It was none other than Álvaro Siza Vieira, one of the two Pritzker Prize winner alumni who was given the project for the faculty, which was preceded by the Carlos Ramos pavilion (1986) which is still used as extra classrooms today.
Built between 1988 and 1992, it stands with three five story towers over the Douro. These towers have a common ground floor which acts as a covered corridor and connects all of them; above this floor, outside you have a courtyard which relates to the other building, where one can find a striking spiral ramp which leads to the wittily lit library: it has a triangular skylight that rather than popping out of building, pops into it, distributing the light in the library for all readers and students quite evenly. Like most buildings by Siza Vieira, the building works into the cliffside and becomes a true part of it. It doesn’t of course submit to the contour lines of the cliff, but it does work with them in such a manner that the uneven terrain is integrated into the architecture very effectively. The layout, and the general turning of the constructions towards the river and with view to the Arrábida bridge, and away from a highway off ramp which runs north of the faculty draws inspiration for the students and covers them from the speeding motor traffic north of them. Another notable room in this campus is the amphitheatre: it features a movable wall, which can either be open or closed to create two seperate rooms for smaller classes, or a bigger one for larger lectures and classes. It is named after the late Fernando Távora who was professor and mentor of Siza Vieira.
Whether you want a very nice view and lesser known view to the Douro river and the Arrábida Bridge, or are a modern architecture connoisseur, the FAUP campus is a building here in Porto that simply cannot be glossed over, due to the its architectural merit alone, but also due to its importance as a cradle for the future architects of the country. To reach it from downtown, it is recommended to catch a bus on either line 200 or 207 (Mercado da Foz direction) and exit at the ”Planetário” stop, and then go down the street!