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Investigating architecture

The philosophy

Joana Rosa Architecture is a small architectural practice. Headed by Joana the studio works both on new and existing buildings in different contexts.

Architecture is more than building, like a thesis it should propose each time something informed, poignant and new. Each place is unique and offers for singular interpretation and intention. We pride ourselves in aspiring to create places that trigger emotions and ties, that in themselves have depth, density and texture. These places are created in dialogue with their surroundings pooling from local inspiration and local knowledge. An understanding of the crafts of construction and the use of ornament are integral to our process.

We try to have an uncomplicated approach to each project bringing with us possibility and an open dialogue with our clients. Embedded in the processes is the interpretation of architecture as an art of making, of resolving. Through drawing and projection there is a search for solutions rather than that notion of “clean perfection”.

Frame the old

Today we build in a preconditioned context more than ever before. Often the pre-existence is also protected and often even when it is not, it is valid and worth taking into consideration. The practice sees the existing as an opportunity rather than an encumberment and uses less of a fast prescribing approach in favour of a slower progressive development of its projects. Juxtaposition is often a mode of curating solutions with a vast and varied pallet that pools from all corners of the art, combining materials, colour, ornament, structure and texture in space. We stay true to each material and accept its imperfections as additions to the structure. We believe in visible mending as a form of high art also applicable in architecture.

Reflection and moderation are key and making the most of the embedded carbon of existing buildings is central to the practice’s philosophy. We reproach the notion of creating vast amounts of waste to have a floor with no nodes or a counter with no veins.

The empirical appropriation process of each project is informed by extensive travel worldwide and experiential understanding of the European cities. Understanding gesture and the act of making are part of the process and transpire into the choice of textures that develop our concepts and projects.

The journey

There was, once upon a time, a young Joana who grew up with two worlds at her feet.  She was born among the grand old edifices of Cambridge city, but her family home was in Porto, a cityscape where experiment and modernism were everywhere to be seen in the 70s and 80s.

Her eager eyes gobbled up the turrets, gargoyles and ancient stones of England’s oldest cities, whilst the incongruent white lines and flat surfaces of the Escola do Porto gave her something altogether different to be excited about. 

The young family always journeyed between the two countries by train, and so Joana also witnessed the character, concrete and contrasts of Spain and France’s big cities, and all the little-known villages that the train put in front of her.  How strange and different the places and people of Europe were!

Castles and skyscrapers, limestone and concrete… the old and the new were the homelands in which Joana grew up as well as the places she travelled through, and the happy incorporation of the two was loved and is loved by Joana, both as girl and grown.

Joana studied Art among the pigeons and lions of St Martins’ College (Art Foundation), she loved working with the colours and textures of art school and was a happy maker, but was not comfortable with the lack of structure to it all.  She craved more boundaries for her pencil, and so she found herself studying at the Porto School of Architecture (Diploma in Architecture, FAUP 2001).

During her diploma she spent a year away in Switzerland (EPFL Lausanne), and here she found the people and the ideas that would direct the next phase of her journey.  Study for Joana was never in one place, and she travelled through Europe and Africa, Asia and America, living once again in old and new worlds, always learning from the architecture that sprung up between them. 

Her formal learning took her back to the UK where she attended the Bartlett School (UCL) for an MSc in Space Syntax and to gain her RIBA certification (Bartlett School, UCL).  In London she discovered a new love in life partner, artist Jabulani, and here they set up home together.  Joana worked in the city around her and it was here she gained her post-graduate diploma in building conservation (Architectural Association).


Joana’s childhood, her travels and passions mean that she loves to work on buildings with history; buildings where she can give a new ending to old stories.  She still loves to journey, and recent commissions have included projects in London, Switzerland, and Portugal.

Joana now lives and works between London and a grand old manor house in the centre of Portugal, a house being re-awoken by herself and her team of architects, but also by the energy and laughter of her own family who live there.

Journeys into the world, journeys into art and history, journeys into people.  It is journeying that has made Joana the architect and the artist that she is today, and she will take everything she has learnt along the way to give every project the texture, definition and empathy it deserves.

The team



Joana Rosa

Mário Manso

Rodrigo Cerquido

Sergio Carvalho


Francisco Henriques

Ligia Terra

João  Tereso

Tiago Ribeiro

Teresa Catanas

Anna Siviero

Nuno Silva

Tânia Barreira

Hector Toledo

Carolina Andreoli

Cristina Durães


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