urban design

Porto architecture

Porto architecture

There’s a backlog of half-written posts building up here due to the distractions of a 4 month old baby who doesn’t recognise blog writing as a valid activity. This one shouldn’t be too hard to wrap up though, so I’ll give it a go. In early November...



I spent last week in Cadaques, a coastal town in north-east of Catalunya. I was struck by how well some of the new houses on the outskirts of town have been built into the natural landscape.

Once a sleepy village, Cadaques was made popular as a tourist destination by its seclusion from the crowds on the Costa Brava and associations with artists of the Modern era such as Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali. Since the 1950s the original whitewashed fishing village has been expanding out of its little bay over the surrounding hillsides. The town is hemmed in by the Cap de Creus national park on one side and the sea on the other so there is immense development pressure on any available parcel of land. Most of the buildings in the old town are painted white but recent new developments on the periphery use the local stone. I don’t know the planning policy but it looks like it has been decided that beyond a certain limit new buildings would have to be clad in stone to preserve the visual clarity of the original nucleus of the town. The policy wasn’t to stop development but rather to impose a kind of school uniform that all the individually designed houses have to wear that gives maintains a sense of place.

The hills behind Cadaques have been terraced with dry stone walls and planted with olive trees for centuries. In many of the new developments stone walls form terraced gardens on the steep slopes and I noticed quite a few where the terraces merge into the walls of houses. The houses are all concrete framed and the stone is just cladding but the homogenous material blurs the distinction between the buildings and the natural forms and colours of the hillside.

The gardens of the houses around where we stayed were planted with indigenous species, particularly Mediterranean stone pines (pinus pinea) that go some way to absorbing the houses into the landscape. It helps that all new buildings in Catalunya have to be drawn up by an architect so there is plenty of invention within the restrictions. The house below reminded me of our Newington Green House: