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A modern journey through time through Faro

At The Modernist in Faro, Portugal, our author Ina discovered her enthusiasm for modern architecture and Art Deco. Stimulated by the hosts Chris and Angelique, she has since seen the sun-kissed Algarve with different eyes and discovers small details and stylish shapes everywhere that represent a perfect contrast to the wild beaches of southern Portugal.

When I see the building The Modernists in a pedestrian street just off the port of Faro, even before I unlock the door to the stairwell, I am greeted by the wonderful scent of the bookshop on the ground floor. I take a deep breath in the unmistakable smell of paper, glue, ink and stories. I smile delightedly and am already excited to see what story I myself will soon tell about this place. I unlock the door to my apartment on the second floor. Minimalist, modern and stylish, the spacious room invites me to take a breather, arrive and sort myself out.

The Modernists

turn on vacation mode at the modernist

The rust-red floor gives the discreetly furnished room a warm atmosphere. Small golden details such as the mirrored light bulbs, the clothes rail and the fittings underline the prevailing simplicity more than they want to appear pompous. White walls alternate with cool marble and a heavy, moss-green curtain. A woven basket hangs dreamily on a hook under the wall mirror. For a few moments I enjoy on the Terrace the Portuguese sunbeams. I listen to the voices of the passers-by below me and catch a few notes of a moderately talented street musician. My vacation mode is on.

The Modernist in Faro


Chris and Angelique spent three years renovating the house with its six apartments before opening it to visitors from all over the world last year. While many a large part of the architecture of the 20th century was degraded as "architectural errors", the two have made it their task to crystallize the subtle elegance, the minimalist functionality and the clear forms of modernity in "The Modernist".

Chris and Angelique

“When we bought the house on Rua Dom Francisco Gomes, which was built in 1974, it had been empty for many years. Instead of trying to imitate any mixture of typical Portuguese holiday flair, we have brought the modern DNA of the place back to life. We almost exclusively used materials from Portugal and worked with people from the region around Faro. We had some of the furniture specially designed and made in the style of modern architecture,” Chris tells me. And that caused some astonishment, because until now there are not too many people in Portugal who see something special in the architecture and design of the 20th century. But Chris and Angelique are determined to change that. And I'm the perfect guinea pig.

designer piece
Courtyard in Faro

superficially, you can hardly see faro's modern facets

Feeling a bit caught out, I settle down comfortably on the bed and open the book Faro Modern Architecture Walking Tour. In it, my hosts tell that there are about 500 buildings in the city that can be attributed to modern architecture - more than anywhere else in southern Europe. Shouldn't I have noticed that on my way from the bus stop to here? At first glance, the capital of the Algarve, with its pretty cobbled streets, didn't look any more modern than many other southern European cities where I've been stranded as a digital nomad for the past five years.

Alleyways in Faro
Ina in Faro

architecture tutoring is included in the modernist

Luckily, Chris' and Angelique's book offers architectural philistines like me a helping hand. I learn what to look for if I want to see the city through the lens of modernity. The colorful tiles, called azulejos, which often turn entire house facades into real works of art, have often struck me in Portugal. However, while traditionally they mostly shimmered in shades of blue, more color and geometry came into play in the 20th century. Many perforated bricks – so-called cobogos – were also installed, which scatter light and shadow and contribute to ventilation. Art Deco is a modernist style and is mainly found in the south of the city. Instead of covering entire house facades with tiles, Art Deco buildings are simpler and only geometrically decorated at certain points. Metal ornaments on doors and windows are also typical of the style.

In the streets of Faro
House facade in Faro
colorful house facade in Faro

faro through the glasses of modernity: a voyage of discovery

When I close the book, I get a thrill of anticipation. I can't wait to put my newfound knowledge to the test. I grab my camera, immerse myself in the alleys of Faro and realize right away: the thing with the “glasses of modernity” worked. Suddenly I can see the traces left by architects like Manuel Gomes da Costa and Jorge de Oliveira almost everywhere. An almost childlike spirit of discovery drives me through the city.

My gaze finds even more tiled facades, scattered in geometrically perforated brick formations, blinks in amazement at garish color combinations, traces the symmetrical shapes of the houses. As soon as I have captured a modern find with my camera, the next element already moves into my field of vision. And on every street corner I notice the typical Art Deco lettering that accompanies my brief journey through time like subtitles in a film. Anyone who, like me, almost always travels, sometimes fails to be amazed. Thanks to Chris and Angelique, that didn't happen to me in Faro.

Architecture in Faro
Faro discovery


© Photos: Ina Hiester and Michael Storey

Ina above the roofs of Faro

Ina is a digital nomad and travels through Europe by land and sea. The journalist is always on the lookout for special places for Good Travel, philosophizes about travel in her column, takes photographs, makes music and writes articles on all kinds of environmental and sustainability topics.



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