In the last decade or so, Porto has proven that things are changing. With a thriving creative scene – thanks to the area’s stellar quality manufacturing legacy – the town’s once vacant shopfronts (blame the economic crisis) are now once again vibrant with goods and colour and the city’s centre has regained its pulse.
But there’s cultural hub, not far within the city’s outskirts, that has remained a draw for culture-seekers. Comprising a 1930-40s’s Art Deco villa, a landscape-specific contemporary museum designed by Álvaro Siza that opened in 1999, and a surrounding park of 18 hectares that’s visited for its sculptures as well as for its biodiversity.
The beautiful villa, in a dusty pink colour, was built by the Porto architect José Marques da Silva as the summer residence of the Cabral family, who were textile manufacturers. Combining neoclassical, romantic and art deco elements, the private residence is spread over three floors. Only some of the original furniture can still be viewed, but features like the René Lalique skylight and the two-storey central hall are peeks into how the industrial elite of Portugal lived at the time.
The surrounding park, made up of landscaped gardens, was designed by João Gomes da Silva, and still contains the most important species that occupied the land before. Today, it displays sculptures by Claes Oldenburg, Dan Graham, and Richard Serra permanently.
The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art itself, is housed in the contemporary Álvaro Siza building. A low-rise structure that interferes with the landscape as little as possible, it’s a serene, minimalist structure in white stucco, which integrates beautifully with its surroundings. As the Foundation’s primary exhibition space, the museum organizes 3 parallel exhibitions a year in its central body and two wings. An L-shaped patio structure complements the whole. Well-known artist like Franz West, Luc Tuymans, Bruce Nauman and Helena Almeida have had exhibitions here.
We think it’s pretty clear that if you are planning a whole day full of nature, culture and history in and around Porto, Serralves Foundation is your one-stop shop. Grab some great food from the cafeteria to eat in the park or take you time at the restaurant, head back to the composed calm of our A Bela Aurora hospitality partner to wind down, and you’ve had a 360-degree day.