Livraria Lello displays a unique architectural style, combining neo-Gothic with "art nouveau" and "art deco".
Livraria Lello is the result of a project by Xavier Esteves (engineer), whose affinity with letters has always been marked by the construction of this one, which is one of the most emblematic bookstores in the world. By using the innovation of reinforced cement, the author is able to make the most of a traditional Neo-Gothic decoration.
Francisco Xavier Esteves (1864-1944) was the engineer responsible for Lello Bookshop building. Man of sciences, studied Engineering at Academia Politécnica do Porto (1886). He had a particular affair for literature since his student days, where he directed a commemorative album about Luís de Camões (1880). The affinity with literature inspired him to build one of the most emblematic bookshops in the world.
First we come across the unmistakable façade of neogothic style, which is impressive in itself. However, the protagonism is dispelled by the paintings of Professor José Bielman that symbolize Art (referring to a sculpture) and Science (exhibiting symbols of anthropology).
Inside the bookstore, we come across a set of bas-reliefs where can be seen representations of José Lello and António Lello. Throughout the room can be found the busts of some of the most important Portuguese writers: Eça de Queirós, Camilo Castelo Branco, Antero de Quental, Tomás Ribeiro, Teófilo Braga and Guerra Junqueiro.
But all these figures have the task of competing for attention with the famous crimson staircase. And none descriptions do it as much justice as the one found in the "Descriptive Album" of the bookshop:
“Thou who walked the room, shall then see a staircase which is a piece of surprising allure, for its apparent lightness which masks the audacity of its design. One feels the urge to climb it yet fears one’s weight may make it crumble.” (in “Album Descriptivo”, LIVRARIA CHARDRON LELLO & IRMÃO).
While you're going up on this stair is impossible not to notice the detail of the friezes that surround it. If you look up you can also appreciate the imposing ceiling. This one may confunde those who appreciate it: it seems that we see carved wood, when in fact it is painted plaster, a technique that also was used in the ornaments of the stairs. The stained glass is what it seems, a glass structure 8 meters long and 3.5 meters wide. The expression "Decus in labore", linked to the monogram of Lello brothers, recalls the golden rule that applies to all who enter this house, whether employees, customers, readers or just curious.
The first floor is filled with architectural details: the wooden carved banister, the Art Deco notes on the walls and the columns that rise from the lower floor.
At the bottom of the stairs, two bronze busts can be found, both made by the sculptor Abel Salazar. They belong to Eça de Queirós and Miguel de Cervantes, two of the greatest writers of the Iberian Peninsula.
At the gallery, located on the lower floor, we find ourselves surrounded by glazed cabinets with ogival doors. Inside are the oldest books of the bookshop, some have the date of the foundation of the place, others are even older (there are also rare books and first issues).