Olhao's 'Baeta' house, 1928

António Paula Brito


The Baeta house was built in 1928, at n°s. 70 to 82, Dr. Bernardino da Silva Avenue, Olhão.


The avenue had been designated as a thoroughfare in the remodeling of the urban center of what was then the village of Olhao and was needed due to the increasing population of workers at the canning factories.


The house deserves to be classified as a Building of Municipal Interest as it captures the the past with a magnificent display of azulejo tiles created by master craftsman Jorge Colaço, also because the architecture represents an era of eclectic revivalism with classic features mixed with the new construction materials, especially the ironwork which preceded Art Nouveau.Olhão's 'Baeta' house, 1928


The house's first owner, Domingos Lourenço Baeta, former Deputy Mayor of Olhão, embodied the economic vigor of Olhão at that time as he owned a fish canning factory founded in 1916, and had decided to build a special house as a tribute to the society, economy and history of the town, a town that had enabled to him to become wealthy.


The historical context gives the building a formal, almost patriotic feeling but, beyond the symbolic importance that the building holds are the fantastic and rare surviving tiles of Jorge Colaço (1868-1942), an artist skilled in detailed tilework and the use of the latest innovative techniques.


Colaço created large azulejo panels in many public buildings, nationally and internationally, including:



São Bento train station in Porto (1903)

Palace Hotel Buçaco in Luso (1907)

Pavilhão dos Desportos , in Lisboa (1922)

Outside of Igreja de Santo Ildefonso, no Porto (1932)

Primary School Forjães , currently the headquarters of the parish council and (March to September 1933)

Outside of Igreja dos Congregados, no Porto Olhão's 'Baeta' house, 1928

Casa do Alentejo ( Alverca Palace) in Lisbon 

Palace Bemposta ( Military Academy ) in Lisbon

Torre de São Paulo, nas Muralhas de Ponte de Lima (Tower of St. Paul, in Walls of Ponte de Lima)

The Merendinha, pastries at Rua dos Condes de Monsanto, Lisbon (Praça da Figueira)

Windsor Castle , England , triptych commemorating the visit of Queen Alexandra to Portugal , made by order of the Marquis of Soveral

Centre William Rappard in Geneva

Maternity Hospital Model of Buenos Aires

Palace of President Marshal Monreal in Cuba Football Club and Vasco da Gama and Portuguese Literary Lyceum in Rio de Janeiro, and Portuguese Hospital in Bahia

Private residences in Brazil (Teresópolis , Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro ) and Cuba and Uruguay

The Baeta house is on two floors with a symmetrical facade consisting of a central triangular panel prominent on the first floor and two side panels of narrative tiles located at the crossroads of two floors.


The tiles of the triangular front panel, are imbued with the spirit of industrial development in Olhão during this period. It is composed of a female figure, representing industry, under the protection of Neptune (God of the Sea) bearing laurel wreath and trident. In the background, factories and in the foreground an anchor. This panel represents the importance of industry and fishing in Olhão.


In the right panel, the tiles depict an historic event for Olhão, the Atlantic crossing of the fishing boat “caíque” Bom Sucesso and its arrival in Rio de Janeiro in 1808 to give the good news to the Portuguese Royal Family that the Napoleonic troops were being defeated in Portugal, defeats that had begun in Olhão!


The left panel shows many “caíques” fishing for sardines and tuna with traditional equipment and methods such as “arte de chávega”, a tribute to the importance of the sea to Olhão.


The facade of the Baeta house, as well as the vibrant tiling, benefits from the carefully placed windows and central doorway. Unfortunately there are two side doors that have been changed to incongruous aluminum gates. These side gates were fitted when the local authority opened an Art Gallery and Municipal Library after 1988.


Further cultural and architectural loss occurred when four stone armillary spheres were demolished in 2006 These had been associated with sea voyages of the fishermen of Olhão.


Inside the Baeta house there is a large entrance staircase, with two giant Corinthian columns side-by-side, like a theater foyer. At either side of the interior there are tiled panels dated 1921, with images of the owner's daughters, Virginia and Natércia Baeta, again by the master craftsman Jorge Colaço.


After being a private residence the house was leased to the City Hall of Olhão in 1960 for use by the Bombeiros and, in 1989 it was used as the Gallery Adriano Baptista, Municipal Library and Elos Clube de Olhão. After 2006 the building was returned to family heirs and we stoically wait for its fate, demolition, ruin, or rehabilitation.


The building has not been demolished yet due to the establishment and efforts of APOS, which proposed in 2007, to the Direção Regional da Cultura, that the building should be classified as Building of Municipal Interest. However this Direção Regional considered that the building could only be classified as a 'municipal process' and so it is down to the local authority to support it. Unfortunately, the local Câmara Municipal did not supported this application and, horror of horror, in 2009 they managed to lose all the records of the municipal classification process including the vital documentation for this important house.


by António Paula Brito

Presidente da APOS - Associação de Valorização do Património Cultural e Ambiental de Olhão

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Photos provided by António Paula Brito


Editor: It would be an act of vandalism beyond belief to allow this house to be demolished. Portugal has few historic buildings as the slate was pretty much wiped clean with the 1775 earthquake. This wonderful building and its important and historic azulejo just can not be allowed to trashed. The creator of the tiling worked in Windsor Castle and had many other important commissions so to have a surviving Jorge Colaço work on a vernacular townhouse in Olhao is a treasure to be held on to and preserved.

Paul Rees November 2010


From Wikipedia:

Jorge Colaço (Tangier 1868 - Oeiras, 1942) was a Portuguese painter specially known for his works as tile (azulejo) painter.


Jorge Colaço was born in Tangier, Morocco, the son of a Portuguese diplomat [1]. He studied art in Lisbon, Madrid and Paris.


Even though Jorge Colaço was a canvas painter and caricaturist, he specialised in designing and painting azulejo panels to decorate large surfaces. His designs had a late Romantic taste, celebrating the achievements of Portuguese history. Along with historical themes, he also produced ethnographic and landscape scenes [2].


Among his most important works are tile panels in the Palace Hotel of Bussaco (1907); São Bento Train Station in Oporto (1905–1916); Sports Pavilion of Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon (1922); façade of Santo Idelfonso Church in Oporto (1932) and many others. He also has works in Brazil, England (Windsor Castle), Geneva (Centre William Rappard [3]) and other countries.