Urban Planning

The Mercado do Bolhão is finally starting to tick!

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The Bolhão Market construction project is about to enter its conclusion phase. This particular type of restoration work is very much like building watches by hand. Mayor Rui Moreira paid a visit to this meaningful worksite in Porto, where fine tunings and detailed masterpiece works are at the hands of renowned and prized architect Nuno Valentim.

Right at Rua Formosa, we find the centennial Mercado do Bolhão building, where an intensive repair and restoration work, much like that of watchmaking, is ongoing. The works are estimated to conclude in the second half of the year. The tunnel is built, facades have been refurbished, the covering of the building has been completely renovated and the basement’s building execution phase is ongoing. Circa 120 workers are keeping old features and traditions alive, by renovating a system of gears and springs at the heart of the old building, which will bring back to the city the heritage equipment, a landmark for Port and the entire Northern Region.

The construction site is wrapped in a telling canvas, portraying the faces of those who will continue their work inside, the ones who have worked in the building for years and are waiting for a triumphant comeback. It took a Mayor the likes of Rui Moreira to embark on such an endeavour: to restore the centennial Mercado do Bolhão – that has to be said.

There were plenty of hurdles to overcome, for instance, building a basement room in a once boggy ground, which defies every engineering work. This logistical structure is, indeed, the great novelty regarding the restoration and the refurbishment of the Mercado do Bolhão. It will be implemented at the core of the building and it will keep refrigerator chambers, storages, chill or ice making compartments, loading and unloading spaces. It will also have an area for the separation and treatment of waste, as well as change rooms. Also, let’s not forget the fact that the entire construction was set up while the Mayor and his team kept direct conversations with the workers, explaining the different phases of the endeavour and finding them a temporary spot to continue their activities while the works are ongoing. Traders settled at Bolhão Temporary Market, just a few steps away from the ancient building and were given their first advertisement campaign ever.

The works also include the waterproofing of floor slabs, setting the cornerstones for the stalls, and preparing the pavement. Cátia Meirinhos, Executive director of the GO Porto municipal company, which manages the construction, explained that the construction method has been changed recently, after long moths waiting for permits to continue digging and excavating. Once this matter was resolved and the construction method was approved, works in the basement made up for lost time; hundreds of piles and side walls were set up in the perimeter for containing transition earthworks and 30 million cubic meters of dirt were already removed, thus enabling the two metres deep excavation whilst advancing with slab construction at surface level. Consequently, the number of workers doubled, from 60 to 120.

At surface level, the central passageway is in place, a direct link between the Sá da Bandeira and the Alexandre Braga streets.

The floor slabs of the upper gallery, the ones which could not be restored, are being fully rebuilt, according to the original lay out. Inside, the coating of glazed tiles in several compartments is ongoing, and outside, canopies are being tested.

The building’s slate roof with a total surface area over 5 500 square metres has been fully restored and the original wooden structured was reinforced, as were the metal fence ridges. Completed is also the renovation of all the pieces and ornaments of the facades, namely the fleurons and gable ornaments. Circa 70 cast iron frames of different sizes were renovated. The over 8500 square metres of the original plaster of the facade were also carefully renovated, now showing the original paintwork of the market, which had been lost by the overlay colour over decades.

The refurbishment work, by ACE – Lúcios & ACA, winner of the public international tender launched by Porto City Hall, is estimated at 22. 3 million euros.

It’s amazing when you finally get a watch ticking, isn’t it?