Visitors to Faro who are more interested in architecture than sun and sand, can now, thanks to one man with a passion, take a guided tour through the back streets and thoroughfares to discover the city’s modernist heritage.

Increasingly,those with a sense of adventure are constantly finding new things of fascination – well things that are new to them, that is. And Christophe de Oliveira is one who turned an interest in modern architecture

(an overlap with deco, with a focus on 1970s minimalism) and a love of the Algarve’s capital, into an all-consuming journey.

The result is the conversion of a seemingly simple building, originally designed by Lisbon architect Joel Santana for a wealthy family who admired the church he was responsible for in their community in the capital, into a series of staycation suites.

The Modernist, above a bookshop and bank in Faro’s walking streets, has taken unabounding energy and patience, and of course, budget, to perfect, and visitors to the city are fast spreading the word of their discovery.

Christophe discovered what had become a shell – the building had been the headquarters of a shipping company and then abandoned for decadesr when the Ibusiness ceased trading after Portugal joined the EU. He purchased
the property, and started the ambitious renovation/conservation programme, with a clear-cut idea of what he was looking to achieve.

“The idea was to give a new life to modernist architecture in Faro and to convince the municipality, inhabitants, politicians and architects to do the same. We wanted Faro to be recognised as a key spot by lovers of the period in southern Europe. And since we started the Modernist project, the Câmara of Faro, and especially its cultural department, have embraced the concept
and developed MIMOMO, in partnership with Microsoft Minecraft, involving ten schools and hundreds of students who have integrated modern design and architecture into their studies. I learned, just a few weeks ago, that the programme will be repeated regularly.”

It is a collaboration with award-winning architect, PAr Plataforma de Arquitectura, whose brief it was to recreate the original spirit – the shapes, materials, colours, the soul.

The Modernist, striking in its confident simplicity, is the perfect base to discover what else Faro has to offer to those fascinated by design and the particular period.

“I had an objective right from the start and knew the direction I was heading in,” says Christophe. “I wanted to show the benefits of conserving a Modernist asset, in the same way that Palm Springs in California has done so successfully. Frank Lloyd Wright constructions and Le Corbusier furniture – these are examples of a style that is undeniable important.

“The Modernist is the first modern architecture conservation in Faro. Too many times modernist buildings are demolished or renovated without respect for their DNA. Ours is the result of a collaboration with award- winning architect, PAr Plataforma de Arquitectura, whose brief it was to recreate the original spirit – the shapes, materials, colours, the soul. Our furniture has been especially designed for us and is inspired by the modern movement.

Christophe and his wife Angelique, who spent 15 years buying and refurbishing arts and crafts buildings in Paris, wanted visitors to make the absolute most of their time in Faro. To that end, they have created a book, The Modernist Architecture Tour, which shows a selection of the most iconic modern buildings in Faro, and the design details that give the period its distinct personality. Special features have been highlighted and there are hand-drawn maps to make the circuit easy and to explain key features.

As we said at the start, this is an experience far removed from the usual. It is here to fascinate, to enthral, and to learn from. And it is a true joy. Faro will never look the same again.

Each open-plan unit (suitable for two adults and two children, or three adults) has a living area, a queen-sized bed, a bathroom, equipped kitchen and a terrace, with access to the shared rooftop that offers splendid views to the Ria Formosa estuary, and also the small, peaceful oasis garden.

Virtually everything in the suites is 100% Algarvean made and materials that are not local are still from close by. And with prices from around €120 a night, this special experience is also priced to be accessible.

Words: Susi Rogol-Goodkind

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