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Soft Portuguese style also known as Nationalistic style, Traditionalistic style and New State style

Areeiro Square building in Lisbon Bank branch building in Santarém  
The Soft Portuguese style (Portuguese: Estilo Português Suave) is an architectural model used in public and private buildings in Portugal, essentially during the 1940s and the early 1950s. This architectural style is also known as Nationalistic style, Traditionalistic style and New State style, but this last denomination is not very correct, since during the Portuguese New State Regimen diverse architectural styles have been applied in public buildings.


The Soft Portuguese appeared from the ideas of several Portuguese architects that, already since the beginning of the 20th century, looked to create a "genuine Portuguese Architecture". One of the mentors of this current was architect Raul Lino, creator of the theory of the "Portuguese house". The result of this current was the creation of a style of architecture that used the modernist characteristics of engineering, masked by a mixture of exterior aesthetic elements removed from the ancient and traditional architecture of Portugal.

The Portuguese New State, authoritarian nationalist regimen born from the the revolution of 1926 and led by Oliveira Salazar, initiated a policy of public works in wide scale, beginning in the 1930s. Initially, in the new public buildings, a monumental modernist style prevailed, with Art Deco characteristics. However, after the Portuguese World Exhibition in 1940, whose chief architect was Jose Cottinelli Telmo, the Portuguese Government started to prefer the Nationalistic Style for its new public constructions. This style was used in all the types of buildings, since the small rural elementary schools to the big high schools and university faculties, passing by military barracks, courts of justice, hospitals, town halls, etc.

Beyond Portugal, this style was also wide used in public buildings of the Portuguese overseas territories of Africa, Asia and Oceania. The style also reached great popularity in the private sector, being used in all the types of buildings, from the single-family houses to apartment buildings, passing by office, commercial and even industrial buildings.

The style was severely attacked by a great number of architects who had accused it of being provincial and devoid of imagination. The assignment, for which the style finished for being commonly known, "Soft Portuguese", was given to it ironically by its critics, who had compared it with a similarly-named brand of cigarettes. The biggest blow in the style was given in the Portuguese National Congress of Architecture of 1948, that originated that it was, gradually, left of being used in the public and particular constructions. From middle of 1950s, the public works promoted by the New State had come back to use the modernist architecture styles.

Despite the critics by many intellectuals, the Soft Portuguese style proved to be popular, corresponding to the tastes of the Portuguese people. Its characteristics, although attenuated, had come back to be present in innumerable private buildings, specially since the 1990s.


The typical buildings of the Architecture of the Soft Portuguese used the modern techniques of engineering, making use of concrete structures and of high constructive quality. However, in contrast to the modernists buildings, here, the modern technique is masked to the maximum by pure ornamental elements.

The ornamental elements in the style are removed from the architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries and from the Portuguese regional architecture styles. Typically, decorative elements are used as rustic rock, picked tiled roofs, pinnacles, pilasters, balconies, etc. Is is also common the existence of arches and towers topped with nationalistic and symbolic elements.