CEAA - Centro de Estudos Arnaldo Araújo


Photography, Modern Architecture and the “School Of Oporto”: Interpretations around Teófilo Rego Archive


Since its very earliest history, photography has selected architecture as one of its main themes. Over the past two centuries, too often, the first encounter with a building or constructed environment comes from looking at an image, usually a photograph. However, despite its importance, the study of architectural photography is generally underestimated.

This research project focuses on the analysis of the relationship between photography and architecture, particularly in the context of the emergence of modern architecture in Portugal, from the study of Teófilo Rego photographic archive, which documents the works of the generation of Oporto architects known as the “Escola do Porto” (School of Oporto).

The main goal is to analyze the potential of the photographic record as a tool to develop new interpretations on theory, criticism and history of architecture from 1940 onwards, when the spread of both modern architecture and photographic practice coincided in Portugal.

The starting point of this research is the collection of the photographer Teófilo Rego (1914-1993). Belonging to the Fundação Manuel Leão, this archive has approximately 600,000 photographs, whose systematic study remains to be done. This collection illustrates, amongst other things, one of the most comprehensive portrayal of Modern Architecture in Northern Portugal, bringing together photographs of the works of architects such as José Marques da Silva, João Andresen, Januário Godinho, Arnaldo Araújo, Luis Padua Ramos, José Carlos Loureiro, Alfredo Viana de Lima, Agostinho Gonçalves Ricca and Rogério de Azevedo, amongst others.
Besides its enormous historical interest, the Teófilo Rego archive — mainly composed of unpublished photographs of both built and unbuilt architectural and urban projects of these architects, central figures of the internationally recognized “Escola do Porto”, born under the pedagogical influences of José Marques da Silva and Carlos Ramos — as a collection, gathers together a work basis that enables the carrying out of a number of other readings of comparable interest.

Besides permitting us to further study this particular period of the history of Portuguese architecture, by accompanying it by a monographic and highly specialized view, also enables us to establish a critical reading on the role of photography in architectural production. All this within the specific context of the “Escola do Porto”, but also recognizable in a Portuguese architecture, somehow affiliated with it.

And so, it is hoped with this project — in addition to the analysis how architectural design and its image influence each other or how editing and producing photographic images become tools of communication and design — to understand what kind of relationships were established between photographers and architects, and how the photographs were used: if the purpose was strictly professional, if they were used to build a personal archive, or whether they were produced for exhibitions and publications. Being important, for each of these cases, to determine to what extent the photographer remained anonymous, while the image highlighted the author of the photographed object: the architect. Demonstrating precisely how, from the beginning of modern architecture, photography came to provide an essential tool in the conception, dissemination and promotion of architectural design, as well as an indispensable tool in the communication of its ideas and theories.
This project has three main objectives:

1) To begin the restoration, organization and study of the Teófilo Rego archive, in order to establish a collection on photography and modern architecture relating to Oporto and the north of Portugal.

2) To produce a critical reading on the relationship between photography and architecture, in the context of the emergence of the “Escola do Porto”, with the purpose of clarifying the role of photography as a communication and design tool in the field of architectural production, from the beginning of modern portuguese architecture to the present day.

3) To make this collection, and its critical reading, available to both a specialized and non-specialized public, through the organization of a public online database, a book on modern architecture in Oporto and the north of portugal, an exhibition and its educational services.

With this triple approach, the project will seek to go beyond simply preserving and contextualizing the collection, allowing also the public access to the photographs themselves as well to all the knowledge produced. On the other hand, through an exhibition and its educational service, this project will provide an experimental thinking and learning space, with the purpose of looking to a photographic archive from a contemporary perspective.