ARTIST JOÃO REI & TYPOGRAFIA MICAELENSE. Shining new light on old words, using letterpress.

The Lumiares,’ a new boutique hotel in the heart of Lisbon’s ‘Bairro Alto’ is a reconstructed former palace named after its former resident, Count Lumiares.  Using the root of his name – ‘to light’ – as a starting point, Bomporto Hotels and their local graphic design /branding team had already made use of the golden sunshine of Lisbon in the hotel’s logo when they asked Foster & Bloom for help developing their design concept.

Instead of filling the spacious rooms of the hotel with touristy photos of Lisbon’s sunny landmarks, Foster & Bloom took a different approach.  In keeping with our ‘localist’ ethos, we enmeshed the unique character of the Bairro Alto quarter and the special qualities of Lisbon’s light to create our design theme and artwork brief.

This neighbourhood is home to a bohemian mish-mash of everyday residents, artists and merchants’ studios, restaurants, quirky shops, lively bars and cafes; a warren of asymmetrical buildings with mismatched facades of varying heights and hues, its narrow streets and pavements cobbled in Lisbon’s iconic square paving stones. Surveyed from above, the quarter forms a striking grid of patterns, light and dark; painted walls adorned with Lisbon’s beautiful hero colours – sky blue, rosy pink and warm ochre. These colours change and intensify throughout the day – creating yet more contrast as the unique, golden light of Lisbon turns to dusk. By day, the neighbourhood is sleepy and quiet, while at night it comes alive; a place of contrasts.

Foster & Bloom worked with art consultants Omey Projects to find & brief artists to show us the light of Lisbon in a fresh, new way.  Bespoke original artworks for the hotel’s spacious rooms inspire with ‘Lisboan’ colour and pattern, while handmade letter-press typography artworks – customised works for The Lumiares by graphic artist João Rei, hand-pressed in an age-old studio in Portugal’s Azores Islands – inspire guests using words, featuring poetry of Lisbon’s own poet Fernando Pessoa.

“Não quero ir onde não há a luz” – Fernando Pessoa

Translation: “I do not want to go, to where there is no light.”

“Ó noite onde as estrelas mentem luz” – Fernando Pessoa

Translation: “Oh night, which stars deceive, to light.”

Pessoa, born in Lisbon in 1888, is Portugal’s literary legend, whose impact on modernist poetry extended its borders.   In collaboration with Foster & Bloom, João Rei dove deep into his works to find his most powerful poetic evocations about light (and darkness).  And our ‘localist’ approach to showcasing Portuguese cultural history didn’t stop there.

To set Pessoa’s words to paper, Rei, a resident of São Miguel Island in the Azores, and long fascinated by the ancient art of letterpress typography, took the opportunity to approach a vintage typography studio in a nearby city of Ponta Delgado:  Tipograpfia Micaelense, in operation since 1957.

As the artist explains, “My vision and inspiration for The Lumiares project was to create for them bespoke fine art pieces that represented a fusion between contemporary design and antique production method. It is the human hand that has the power to infuse art with soul.   I was able to create, compose and press-print these two unique pieces simply using age-old wisdom and antique tools.  It was an honour and privilege to work with, learn from, and be guided by the hands of a master typographer Dinis Botelho, whose knowledge of these ancient techniques is vital in preserving the heritage and richness of this dying art form for generations to come.”


Vintage hand letterpress craftsmanship results in one-of-a-kind art pieces by allowing full artistic control of such things as colour and paper selection, mixing of inks, and setting the amount of pressure.  These pieces were composed entirely by hand and press printed on an antique Chandler & Price, Co. machine;  this typography set was then printed on 300grm cotton fine paper.

Watch this fascinating creative process, below…

Foster & Bloom are immensely proud to have collaborated in this way with Omey Projects, João Rei, Tipografia Micaelense and of course, Portugal’s greatest poet, to produce these pieces for The Lumiares hotel — and to have found a new way for guests to think about Lisbon’s magical light.

 

 

 

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