A five-partner firm lead by Paulo Martins Barata, Joao Luis Ferreira, Paulo Perloiro, Pedro Appleton and Joao Perloiro, PROMONTORIO is a full-service architecture, planning, landscaping, interior design and graphics team that began in Lisbon in 1990 as an experimental studio. It consistently grew into a practice of sixty architects, planners, landscape architects, interior designers and graphic designers.
Underlying its approach to the urban form, the work of PROMONTORIO has often been identified with the pursuit of a ‘system of robustness’ (i.e. solidity, stability and durability) both in terms of representational meaning and technical research. This in turn, has been implemented and tested in vast construction sites and under challenging time and budget constraints.
Our process springs from a dynamic and focused design culture that fosters collaboration above all. This cohesive and interactive structure enables us to deal with large and complex projects both in terms of design and programme. Ranging from schools, museums and cultural institutions, to housing, offices, hotels and retail, PROMONTORIO has accomplished projects in Algeria, Angola, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, China, Doha, Dubai, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Georgia, Mozambique, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the USA and Vietnam, having established partnerships in many of these.
The work of PROMONTORIO has been widely published in A10, Area, Architectural Review, Architecti, Arqa, Arquitectura Viva, A+T, Detail, 2G, Domus, Expresso, Prototypo, Público, JA, Lotus, Techniques & Architecture, The Plan, etc. Our work has received various international awards and has been presented in conferences and lectures in Austria, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, UK and the USA. It was exhibited, among others, in the 9th Venice Architecture Biennial, in La Triennale di Milano, in Arc en rêve (Bordeaux), in Cornell University (Ithaca), in Aedes Gallery (Berlin) and more recently in the BSA (Boston Society of Architects).
Over the years, we have consolidated a set of principles in our design approach, that do not wish to impose, but we tend to value the projects which include them:
I. Design buildings to last
We believe buildings should be solid and durable. Places are realised in history through the preservation of memory and the buildings that withstand time are the ones that determine the identity of a place. Architecture should bear the normal wearing of everyday life. Moreover, and given that the land is a scarce resource, building that last are an ecological response to the energetic waste that extemporaneous demolishing or refurbishing implies.
II. Produce exceptions, respect conventions
In an urban context, we believe that the formal autonomy generated by dramatic and spectacular buildings can only be justified by the exception of a notable civic status or an innovative programme. If the latter are conventional, we prefer that buildings blend gently in the urban fabric or, given a larger scale, create a context that is able to accommodate, without stridency or gratuity, the flow of the quotidian.
III. Encourage mixed-use programmes
Diversity, multiplicity and adaptability are attributes inherent to the very idea of the city and, having this in mind, we try to avoid designing mono-functional urban systems. Ideally, we incorporate the three main functional spheres of life in the city —housing, offices and commerce— allowing for a continuous inhabitation of ensembles across the day.
IV. Discriminate the use of technology
For the most part, buildings should not depend on technological systems and materials that are predictably obsolete in the short run. On the other hand, there are new materials and innovative applications that can be valuable and interesting, given that these are previously tested and carefully balanced.
V. Understanding market conditions
With the general decline of the welfare state, the bulk of the city is increasingly built by the private sector. In this context, we believe that, even without exceptional programmes or large budgets, architectural dignity must be achieved; we believe fine buildings can be produced with the market conditions of private developers. Moreover, we believe in moving a step further and gradually changing the habits of the industry by fostering quality in design and construction.
VI. Incorporate ideas from artists
Historically, art and architecture are aesthetic disciplines that complement each other. Working with artists can bring powerful new insights and ideas to architecture, and vice-versa. The unrestrained freedom of art can challenge the boundaries of architecture without any of them having to loose their core disciplinary character and metier.
At PROMONTORIO we have a holistic approach to architecture that has always placed sustainability as the core of our design strategy. We aim to create places that are implicitly sustainable and that guarantee cost-effective and enduring solutions. However, we do not seek to express our environmental credentials through technological apparatus, neither to use them as an opportunistic marketing device.
Instead, we focus on developing buildings and spaces that respond to context and environment with serenity and thoughtfulness. In collaboration with our consultants, we believe in defining integrated and coordinated MEP strategies from the outset as intrinsic elements of design. Many of our buildings abide by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method), which is a voluntary measurement rating for green buildings, and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which is the US green building certification system.
In practical terms, we have implemented strategies for improving HVAC efficiency, resorting to passive solar building placement and renewable energy generation, such as photovoltaic solar panels, air-source heat pumps, and more recently, woodchip and biomass heating technologies. In harmony with our clients, and whenever possible, we specify locally sourced and sustainable building materials, which include among others, sustainably harvested wood, cork and linoleum, rammed earth, clay, coconut, wood fibre plates and bamboo, locally obtained stone and rock, and non-toxic low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) glues and paints. In addition, the use of recycled materials is part of our strategy for sustainability and includes the reuse of materials, such as reclaimed wood and stone remnants. Finally, we employ water-saving strategies, such as absorbent landscaping, infiltration devices, rain gardens, bio-retention, permeable paving, green roofs and rainwater harvesting.
PROMONTORIO is fully committed to help meeting the environmental challenges of the future through design decision-making. Together with our clients, we aim towards creating places that promote a better life and a better environment.