55 Calçada da Vitória captures 1920’s trends: architect

The Cardinal Newman Performing Arts and Cultural Center, the house on 55 Calçada da Vitória, is a vivid example of East-West interactions captured in the architectural style, explained architect and member of the Urban Planning Committee Lui Chak Keong at a seminar yesterday.
The building was owned by the Macau Diocese for about eight decades and was used by Yuet Wah College for about six or seven of those. The local secondary school was operated by Italian missionaries the Salesians of Don Bosco since 1926. The building has recently been shortlisted by the Cultural Affairs Bureau as a potential piece of local heritage.
A public consultation on the shortlist of 12 real properties that have the potential to be identified as local heritage is in progress. The consultation required as part of a legal procedures.
The inside of the two-floor building is the core of the integration of the Eastern and Western décor styles.
For instance, the architect pointed out most of the rooms in the building have hanging partitions to signal the separation of spaces. This is not only a very Chinese practice, the partitions were also designed with rich Chinese influences.
One of the hanging partitions has bats, deer and wooden knots carved into it, which symbolize bliss, wealth and longevity respectively. These symbols were common decorations in older times.
The ceilings also have carvings of flowers and curves that resemble Baroque décor. In addition, the fireplace in one room was even believed to be pre-made and sent directly from the U.K., with tiles of rose paintings around it.
In contrast, the building has an exterior that is rich with Western architectural influences, such as Baroque staircases and window frame embellishments with curvy shapes and lines, which Lui explained give the impression of movement and thus a sense of vitality.
The window frame embellishments also resemble those used on the windows of towers built during the Middle Ages or styles from that period. The Cardinal Newman Center is not the only building in the city with such embellishments according to Lui, who cited two other buildings on the Guia Hill as examples.
The pillars supporting the balconies were built in a classical eclectic style. Lui explained that they resemble classical Greek or Roman pillars, but with much simpler details and less rigid presentations, meaning they are not even neo-classical pillars.
The main gate of the center is full of signs of French or Dutch Baroque influences. The red bricks were not a popular material in Macau, according to Lui.
As for a particular meaning the architectural and décor styles may be attempting to imply, Lui admitted that he was not able to tell because information about who designed which part of the building was far from sufficient. Without knowing the identity of the designer, any interpretations cannot be verified.
“Even if I try to explain the implications, it would only be my understanding of the designs instead of the real meaning that the original designer wanted to convey,” Lui said.

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