New building of the Parish Council of Portimão «sets an example in the defense of heritage»

Works that are inaugurated today maintain «the original structure of the building», as well as «preserving all the heritage found here»

Álvaro Bila – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

The restoration of the old Nossa Senhora da Conceição House and its adaptation to accommodate the services of the Parish Council of Portimão is «a very important example for the city and its historic center». The words are from Álvaro Bila, president of that municipality, during the visit that the Sul Informação made to the new building, which this Sunday, the 10th, at 17 pm, will be inaugurated.

In the new facilities, in addition to the great concern "in guaranteeing access for people with reduced mobility", the objective was to maintain "the original structure of the building", as well as "preserving all the heritage found here".

Interestingly, Álvaro Bila ends his two consecutive terms of office today at the head of the Portimão Parish Council, since, soon after the inauguration of the headquarters, the new municipal bodies of the parish will take office, which will be presided over by the also socialist Maria da Luz Santana. And tomorrow, Monday, Álvaro Bila will take office himself as councilor (and possible future vice-president) of the Portimão City Council.

The mayor recalled that, in his first term at the head of the Parish Council, and before starting any work, "archaeological excavations took place in the courtyard of the old building", which uncovered a Roman well and the remains of a century house. XVI-XVII, as well as the well-preserved remains of a sidewalk.

All these archaeological elements have been preserved and will now be «integrated in the courtyard, which will be open to visits and may in the future host initiatives, which will make this Junta building another attraction in the historic center of Portimão».

The archaeological excavations were carried out by a specialized company and accompanied by Vera Freitas, the archeologist at the Portimão Museum. «This is a public building, located in an area of ​​the city, here at the foot of the Igreja Matriz, where it was already known that there must have been archaeological remains. Therefore, everything was done as it should be, even because the Parish Council has to set an example», explained Álvaro Bila.

The courtyard and its archaeological remains will not be visitable this Sunday, during the inauguration, but "next month". In fact, despite the fact that the building's rehabilitation and adaptation work has ended eleven days before the deadline, everything indicates that the Board's services will only move to the new facilities at the beginning of next year. "But that will be the new executive to decide", he stressed.


Álvaro Bila and the new president of the Parish Council, at the door of the new building – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


It wasn't just in terms of outdoor space that there was concern about preserving the heritage. The building itself is also an “example” of the much that can be done.

The Parish Council had already functioned in the old Casa Nossa Senhora da Conceição, about twenty years ago. At that time, a competition was even launched for ideas for adapting the building to these functions, won by two young architects, but the proposal then approved provided for a much larger construction area with more impact on the site. It was, moreover, more expensive, not only in terms of construction, but also in terms of future maintenance, which is why, when Álvaro Bila assumed the presidency of the Board, in 2013, he decided to abandon this project.

A contest for Design and Execution was then launched, which was won by Stap – Repair, Consolidation and Modification of Structures, a company with vast experience in works on old buildings and heritage value, having been responsible, for example, for interventions in the Church of São Francisco, in Évora, or in the Cathedral of Funchal.

“The tender was sent in June of last year to the Court of Auditors, which approved it in October and work began immediately,” recalls Álvaro Bila. And now, eleven days before the one-year deadline, the works are ready, after an investment of just under 1,2 million euros.

The care taken in preserving the building located in the protection area of ​​the Igreja Matriz in Portimão is visible from the outside. The yellow and blue tile panel above the main door has been preserved, with only the letters replaced: where it used to read Casa Nossa Senhora da Conceição, now reads Junta de Freguesia de Portimão. «But even this work was done by a specialist in tiles, who came here to remove the old ones, and then we were able to make new ones, with exactly the same techniques and colors», the mayor proudly points out.

Inside, the two arches of the entrance hall, for example, were not foreseen in the initial project. "That wall was supposed to have been completely demolished, but when the demolitions began, those arches appeared and we decided to keep them."

In one of the rooms, a masonry wall was kept in view. "If today we wanted to make a wall like this, it wouldn't be so well done, nor so beautiful."

On the lower floor, which is also a ground floor, as the building is located on a steep street, a structure excavated in the limestone where the house is located has been preserved and exposed. “This here is a training room. The archaeologist told us that this structure carved out of the rock must have been part of the foundations of a warehouse, perhaps from the XNUMXth century. Leaving this here robs us of five feet from the training room…but it had to be!”, guarantees Álvaro Bila.


Ancient structure preserved inside the building – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


The large hall where the four annual Parish Assemblies will take place, illuminated by large windows, will also serve for «exhibitions, gatherings and other initiatives».

An important aspect is that the patio, with its visible but preserved archaeological remains, as well as this large multipurpose hall and the bathrooms, have an independent entrance, which means that the exhibitions and other initiatives that will take place there they may be open even on weekends, holidays or at times when the Board is closed.

Always pointing out that the decision on this will be up to the new Board, Álvaro Bila revealed that one of the first exhibitions to take place there should be organized by the Portimão Museum, having as its theme the remains found during recent archaeological excavations in three new buildings in the historic center : the Junta itself, the Mabor Building and the hostel.

In addition to being accessible, even to users with reduced mobility, the building guarantees all the conditions for the 14 employees that the Parish Council has, namely a modern and well-equipped cafeteria for the staff.

Inside, white walls prevail, natural light, which in certain places even enters through large open skylights on the roof, light wood, functionality that has not forgotten the history of the place. The doors and windows are in wood, but with double glazing, combining the traditional with the current thermal comfort needs.

Safety has not been forgotten either: the building is prepared to resist earthquakes, thanks to the use of carbon fiber mesh.

On Friday, while the finishing touches were being made to the painting and cleaning, the employees were preparing the large entrance hall (where, in the future, five customer service posts will function) for the taking over of the new municipal bodies of the Parish of Portimão. Today, at 17 pm, the new building will be inaugurated and will serve as a stage for the ceremony.


Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação