Founded by architects Filipe Magalhães, Ana Luisa Soares and Ahmed Belkhodja, Fala Atelier is a ‘naïve architecture practice’ based in Porto, Portugal. With a combined experience at practices such a SANAA, Toyo Ito, Harry Gugger Studio and Atelier Bow-wow, the practice was founded in 2013, and has been growing in influence ever since. Interest in Fala’s projects quickly started rising after the completion of a series of clever and idiosyncratic projects in Portugal – soon, invitations to exhibtions, architecture schools and international projects snowballed.
This renovation of a 19th century house exemplifies the characterful style of Fala. The single family home was divided into studio apartments, with connected circulation and a private backyard space. Yet everyday spaces are punctured with elements or ‘morphemes’ – such as the stepped wall, colourful doors or the striped floor surface – that make the project extraordinary.
While the front facade was unchanged, the dilapidated tiling on the back facade was replaced with vertical stripes of polished white, green and black marble. Its audacity changes its function from supportive wall to a mural of marble, a monument to the everyday.
In a post-modern collage of styles and themes, Fala work with ‘methodic optimism’ to create intuitive – straight-forward, yet cleverly conceptual and creative solutions to architecture, that are also decorative and full of confident character. They describe their work as ‘hedonic’ , a word not often used to describe architecture, but Fala Atelier do it with a non-pretentious lightness that is hard to achieve.
Fala’s view on architecture is refreshingly light too: ‘Every new project is an opportunity to find something new that we can fall in love with. Every new project is an experiment and an excuse to step out of our comfort zone.’
The three architects can often be found speaking about their approach at places such as the AA, the Graham Foundation and the Casa della Architettura in Rome amongst others – the team was travelling to NYC to teach at Columbia during our Architects’ Directory shoot. As well as taking part in biennials and exhibitions including Venice and Chicago, at the Serralves Foundation and the Pavillon de l’Arsenal in Paris.
The studio grapples with its identity locally and internationally, yet also totally embraces this challenge of defintion, turning critique into characterisation: ‘Everytime we present our work in Portugal, we are told our architecture is completely detached and in denial of our local context. When we present our work abroad, we are told our architecture is profoundly Portuguese. We truly like to be in such limbo.’
The growing practice is increasingly faced with more ‘seriousness’ – ‘contracts, regulations, technical requirements...’ yet they try to stay close to their founding roots: ‘In a fast-paced world, our main challenge is to remain naïve, to not lose track of why we became architects, why we looked up to Peter Pan as a reference in the first place – to remain in love with architecture.’