The beauty of this work from Porto’s great architect, Marques da Silva, is in every corner and detail. Run-down and battered, like so many public buildings in the age of austerity, but fully functioning, the massive Liceu Alexandre Herculano has nonetheless survived (for now) the madness of Parque Escolar, which has contributed so much to the destruction of our Architectural Heritage (and public finances) in the name of trendy grandiose words like Modernisation, Sustainability and a brand new (really from the 1960s) “conceptual model”.
Griping aside, as with any competent Beaux-Arts project every part is articulated and differentiated in character and detail. The modest back elevation faces the open-air sports field with the remnants of Porto’s industries as a backdrop. The inner courtyards (there are three) feature an endless parade of Architectural inventions: colonnades with open passages above, a myriad of different door and window sizes, muntins and mullions, balconies, terraces, pediments. Hierarchy, symmetry and detail combined to the maximum artistic effect and grace, as opposed to the interesting-but-dull classical examples which would come from the Fascists a few decades later. This was the apex of Portuguese Architecture and fortunately for us we can still enjoy it almost a century later – the cornerstone was laid in 1916.
Liceu Alexandre Herculano, Avenida de Camilo, Porto
PS: you can consult the planned intervention for the School here. For some reason it hasn’t been carried out yet.