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Arda Recording Company - New Studios in Porto, Portugal
Old 17th December 2017
  #1
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Joao B.'s Avatar
 

Arda Recording Company - New Studios in Porto, Portugal

Hi everybody,

So after years of being inspired by some of the great threads in this forum, I’m finally starting my own studio construction diary here on GS.

We are building a 5 studio complex in Porto, Portugal, so this will be a fairly big one. Hopefully in the end it will be all worth it!

I’m not a huge poster around here, so let me start with a bit of background information. For the past 11 years I’ve run a mid-sized studio in downtown Porto called Estúdios Sá da Bandeira.

This is a very musical city with a lot of cool stuff going on, and we’ve managed to work with a lot of great independent artists from all over the world and create good relationships within our industry.

Portugal doesn’t have a that many big comercial studios, and most are located in Lisbon. Being the second biggest city in the country, and really close to Galicia (Spain), we get a lot of calls from musicians, engineers and producers who need a decent sized recording room where they can do live tracking, record big drums, strings, etc.

For the past few years we started to feel the need to expand and move to a bigger and better facility, built from the ground up (the studio was located in a 19th century building, with all of it’s inherent problems). Around 14 months ago, I received a phone call that set things in motion: construction was to begin in the two buildings that are next to the studio to turn them into tourist apartments, and the noise would be impossible to isolate, rendering our recording studio unusable.

We then set out to find a new place and start fresh. Being one of the only commercial studios in the city, and having really good relationships with our local artists, labels, promoters and so on, I knew that the studio would need to be located in the city. Porto is quickly becoming one of the most sought out destinations in the world, so in order to attract international artists, we needed to be located in the city, with good access to highways, airport, subway, etc.

Downtown was pretty much out of the question, since prices are sky high and the traffic is becoming absolutely insane - the city is 900 years old and downtown area is not ready for high volume traffic. In the oriental side of town there’s a parish called Campanha, a semi-industrial area that for years was forgotten by everyone and now it’s starting to become alive with a lot of artists moving there (kinda like Brooklyn decades ago, I guess). The city’s main train station is located here, the main highway is also right next to it, and it’s only a 15 minute walk to downtown.

As some of you know, it’s not easy to find a good place to build a big recording studio. We came across a lot of warehouses with good ceiling height but they were either too small, had pillars all over the place, or were outside of town.

After 2 months of searching every corner and calling a million people (and after almost buying a huge basement that was built to be a movie theater and dodging a bullet!) we found the perfect location.

It’s a 800 something square meter (9000 sq. feet?) warehouse, with a decent backyard, located in a private street behind the main avenue of the parish, so it’s right next to the train station:











Old 17th December 2017
  #2
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We then spent the next 12 months planning this build.

Somewhere along the way we came to the conclusion that for this to work, we needed to go a bigger than I had ever anticipated. Spread out between two floors, we will have:

- 5 independent studios (three for recording/mixing, one mixing room, and one mastering room)
- a small apartment for artist accommodation
- 3 small production rooms
- 3 offices
- one small workshop for repairs
- one public vinyl library which will host around 35.000 records owned by the City Hall (more on this later).

Since the change from the previous location would be so drastic, it made no sense to keep operating under my old company. For that reason, I’ve founded the Arda Recording Company with my old partner from the recording studio, and with one of the guys who founded the original studio with me.

We are all professional audio engineers who make a living doing records, so first and foremost, this build had to make sense financially, and we couldn’t (can’t!!) afford to waste money. For that reason, we want to build a great sounding, engineer-and-artist-friendly facility, but without all the fancy stuff (no marble and gold restrooms I’m afraid). We are all down to earth kinda guys and I think this facility will reflect that.

One of my partners, Miguel, is a mastering engineer, and for the past few years has also been involved in the designing and building of several smaller studios here in Portugal. Our Studio A will be a fairly big studio, and we knew that it would be really stupid and a waste of money and time to try to do it on our own.

We decided to hire Phillip Newell and his team to design Studio A, and to oversee the design of the smaller studios, which we designed ourselves.

After months and months of sleepless nights, crunching numbers, applying for permits, adjusting the architectural plans, dealing with red tape, and so on, we finally got our building permit a few weeks ago and construction is finally beginning.

We’ll try to keep this thread going with pictures of the process and update it regularly.

Thanks for reading!
Old 17th December 2017
  #3
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Giuseppe Zaccaria's Avatar
 

Hi Joao, congrats for the big project.... I wish all the best and keep us posted.. cheers
Old 18th December 2017
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Giuseppe Zaccaria View Post
Hi Joao, congrats for the big project.... I wish all the best and keep us posted.. cheers
Thanks! We'll try to keep this entertaining and informative.

Old 18th December 2017
  #5
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Demolition!

First, the backyard:



As an extra measure against flooding, Philip insisted that we lay a few drain pipes along the ground floor. These pipes will lead to a draining well which is 4m deep under ground:



After taking care of the yard, they started tearing down the original floor. We need to go as deep as 75cm in some places.





Everybody loves trucks!

You can also see that the ceiling was covered from the inside with projected foam to help with thermal insulation (this will be covered by the false ceilings, but it will help keeping the building cool in the Summer).



The Sylomer which will be used to float the walls and some floors of the studios also arrived today:

Old 19th December 2017
  #6
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More demolition:










Some of the existent footings were different than we expected from consulting the building's original plans, but so far it seems that we shouldn't have any problems with that.

Old 19th December 2017
  #7
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Happy to come and record when all is done.
Although from the netherlands...i fell in love with Porto about 15 years ago.

I will drag my band there...

Don.t forget to eat well. Building makes skinny real fast. Fransezina!
Old 19th December 2017
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pief View Post
Happy to come and record when all is done.
Although from the netherlands...i fell in love with Porto about 15 years ago.

I will drag my band there...

Don.t forget to eat well. Building makes skinny real fast. Fransezina!
Porto really is a special place. Almost every artist that travelled here to record with us immediately fell in love with the city!

Let me know next time you're around, Francesinha's on me!
Old 21st December 2017
  #9
Looking like a very nice project indeed! I'll follow your posts closely
Old 23rd December 2017
  #10
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On Thursday they finished levelling the floor and taking out all the dirt and concrete:







One of the big gates was also removed and they started building a wall in it's place.



Looking good!

Old 23rd December 2017
  #11
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Yesterday we had the first big setback, and I'm sure that unfortunately it won't be the last...

The soil is really a lot worse than everybody expected, so the the original footings aren't good anymore. We're probably gonna have to do a massive slab to cover the entire place, which will be a big big unexpected expense.

On Tuesday a company is coming to test the soil (there goes €3.5k..) so our engineer can rethink this. Apparently this is a very common issue, so our foreman is not worried. They even think that the slab solution will speed things up, but it will definitely cost more money.

Front wall going up. This is where Studio B is located, and this wall is just one of 3 concrete walls that separate the inside of Studio B from the street.




Yesterday we got to see the finished model for the complex. We also got 3D computer models, but there's something really cool about having this hand-made! I only took a few pictures, more to come later:










Last edited by Joao B.; 23rd December 2017 at 11:53 AM.. Reason: typo
Old 28th December 2017
  #12
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This week construction has slowed down because of the problem with the soil.

To make matters worst, most companies are closed for the holidays, but our contractor managed to pull in a few favours and we got someone to come and test the soil rigidity.

They brought in a big drill which was a bitch to get inside the warehouse because people just park wherever they please most of the time and a couple of cars were blocking the street.





The workers weren't very pleased about their boss making them come in to work on a holiday but our foreman sweet talked them for a while and everything was good. So far it seems that our contractor is really playing on our team and doing everything they can to make sure construction is done right. After years of dealing with sketchy people in the construction business I have a good feeling about them, but it's too soon to talk and I don't wanna jinx it!

They had to use 5 of these 1,5m drills to achieve proper rigidity, which means we're probably looking at lot of concrete to lay a full slab on the warehouse. Until we get the lab results it's just a guess.




I'd love to play around with the drill, it's just a 3 ton RC car



Other than these tests, the crew finished construction in the backyard. We should be able to move forward with the structure during next week.
Old 29th December 2017
  #13
Oh wow.... I love the foam-core mock up.

Seriously.... Doing that is worth a thousand explanations....

I hate 3D modelling, it is too sterile and doesn't tell us much, but doing a mock-up in foam-core is so tactile it allows you to really get a feel of what will happen, how, and why things are as they are.

I'm at a stage now where I can do it all in my head in imaginary materials I calculate methods, spaces, and how things will be built in a kind of imaginary world (a bit like in The Matrix), but I have 35 years of doing it, so I got a feel for it long ago and I have a vivid technical imagination.

What is difficult is often putting it all down on a media where people can visualise it. I find that CGI / 3D just misses so much info compared to foam-core building.

I'm working on a microprocessor controlled, programmable variable acoustic environment at the moment (Lots of Arduino programming and steppers and optical sensors) and the actual practical work-out model for the programming is a scale foam core box with foam-core variable acoustic panels. Just a shame the stepper motors are not to scale.



The place is really moving on.... Great work...

Keep the photos coming... I'll enjoy watching them appear....

Are you videoing any of it? - That would be really cool!

Cheers.

Joules.
Old 29th December 2017
  #14
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Yessir! This is impressive! I didn’t even know facilities like these were still being built. How long do you estimate it will take to complete? I’ll be watching this thread just for the sheer scope of this project. Good luck with the build and have a fantastic new year!
Old 29th December 2017
  #15
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Joao B.'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuisance View Post
Oh wow.... I love the foam-core mock up.

Seriously.... Doing that is worth a thousand explanations....

I hate 3D modelling, it is too sterile and doesn't tell us much, but doing a mock-up in foam-core is so tactile it allows you to really get a feel of what will happen, how, and why things are as they are.

I'm at a stage now where I can do it all in my head in imaginary materials I calculate methods, spaces, and how things will be built in a kind of imaginary world (a bit like in The Matrix), but I have 35 years of doing it, so I got a feel for it long ago and I have a vivid technical imagination.

What is difficult is often putting it all down on a media where people can visualise it. I find that CGI / 3D just misses so much info compared to foam-core building.

I'm working on a microprocessor controlled, programmable variable acoustic environment at the moment (Lots of Arduino programming and steppers and optical sensors) and the actual practical work-out model for the programming is a scale foam core box with foam-core variable acoustic panels. Just a shame the stepper motors are not to scale.



The place is really moving on.... Great work...

Keep the photos coming... I'll enjoy watching them appear....

Are you videoing any of it? - That would be really cool!

Cheers.

Joules.
Hey Joules (funny, I was just sending Phil an email like 2 minutes ago!)

Yeah the mock up is great, I'm not a very visual person and after 12 months of looking at drawings it's awesome to be able to lift the ceiling and look at the studios.

I know that you guys have all this inside your head but for the rest of us it's awesome to have this kind of visual aid. Computer mock ups are great, but this feels so much more real.

That variable acoustic environment sounds like a very interesting project, I'd love to know more about that!

Yeah we have a ton of photos and I also bought a time lapse camera suited for construction, which we placed up high in the warehouse. We got a couple of weeks of footage, but I'll wait until we get a few more to post the videos.

I'm really excited about the project, and I can't wait to see it done.

Cheers,

Joao
Old 29th December 2017
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Funny Cat View Post
Yessir! This is impressive! I didn’t even know facilities like these were still being built. How long do you estimate it will take to complete? I’ll be watching this thread just for the sheer scope of this project. Good luck with the build and have a fantastic new year!

It's a fact that the industry has changed, but there's still place in Portugal for a facility that is properly designed and built. Obviously the two most important things are to have a good business plan and to work with professionals that have been doing this for a long, long time.

To answer your question regarding completion times, I should start by explaining that we will have a few different crews working at the same time. After all the structural work is done (which will take between 3 to 4 months), we will have:

One crew building Studio A
One crew building the smaller studios
One crew building all the non-studio spaces (offices, lounges, production rooms, etc)
One crew building the vinyl library.

That should take another 4 months, or at least that's the plan
Old 29th December 2017
  #17
Hello João. It's so good to see you and your partners are starting such an ambitious project. I went through a similar process several years ago, and it was Phil's and Joules' knowledge and expertise that made the whole thing possible. I can say, you're in good hands!
I enjoyed watching these first photos and I'll be waiting to see more. Boa sorte!
Branko
Old 29th December 2017
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Branko View Post
Hello João. It's so good to see you and your partners are starting such an ambitious project. I went through a similar process several years ago, and it was Phil's and Joules' knowledge and expertise that made the whole thing possible. I can say, you're in good hands!
I enjoyed watching these first photos and I'll be waiting to see more. Boa sorte!
Branko
Hi Branko, thanks for the nice words!

I followed your journal here on the GS, it was super helpful while planning our own build during the past year. I'd love to visit your place next time I'm in Lisbon.

Phil and Joules are true experts in studio design and building so we're very confident on the outcome

-Joao
Old 30th December 2017
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joao B. View Post
I'd love to visit your place next time I'm in Lisbon.
You're more than welcome!
Old 30th December 2017
  #20
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Sniperschool's Avatar
Really looking forward to this thread
Old 31st December 2017
  #21
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Joao B.'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sniperschool View Post
Really looking forward to this thread
Thanks!
Old 5th January 2018
  #22
Gear Addict
 

What an awesome space with huge potential! I agree on the foam-core models -- although I have formal CAD training, I STILL prefer a physical model that I can handle over a computer-rendered one. It's somehow easier to visualize spatial relationships.

If I may ask, what material was used for the roof? Looks like some sort of cement-composite sheet? The reason I ask is because I've had the opportunity to evaluate several buildings of similar overall construction and age (although with different roofing materials) and they've almost all had leaky roofs.
Old 6th January 2018
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WorldPowerLabs View Post
What an awesome space with huge potential! I agree on the foam-core models -- although I have formal CAD training, I STILL prefer a physical model that I can handle over a computer-rendered one. It's somehow easier to visualize spatial relationships.

If I may ask, what material was used for the roof? Looks like some sort of cement-composite sheet? The reason I ask is because I've had the opportunity to evaluate several buildings of similar overall construction and age (although with different roofing materials) and they've almost all had leaky roofs.
I'm Miguel, João's partner! I'll take this one...

The original warehouse had just a standard fiber cement roofing. It was in really good shape as it was properly maintaned by the owner over time. No leaks on it though we'll probably still re-do and renew some of the gutters as we'll have an entirely new drainage system designed for the complex.

We've added a 6cm layer of sprayed polyurethane foam under it since we got the warehouse. This was done for thermal insulation purposes only as the original roofing had pretty much no isolation in that regard. And it ended up being pretty effective, before doing the projected foam the warehouse was damn cold in winter and extremely hot in the summer. Now it's pretty much stable regarding thermal variations across all seasons.

Sound isolation wasn't a consideration for all of this as each studio will have its own concrete structure (bunker) plus all their internal inner walls and floated structures. They'll have to be soundproofed on their own and the entire warehouse was disregarded when it came to plan the soundproofing.

Last edited by miguelmarques; 7th January 2018 at 11:42 AM.. Reason: Typo
Old 13th January 2018
  #24
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We're still waiting for the estimates to fix the soil issue, we should have more news early next week. This problem really set us back but I'm confident we can resume with the program shortly.

In the meanwhile, me and Miguel are going to NAMM this year. We arrive on the 21st, and we're definitely up for a drink with the LA Slutz!
Old 16th January 2018
  #25
It may be a bit early.... But we loaded the tools for this acoustic structure build today!

Sounds mad, but we have a back-to-back so everything that gets shipped out to Ibiza has then to go on to Porto. It's easier as our shipping agent is in Vigo. Sending everything home then re-loading a slightly different set of tools again would be a huge waste of time. Our tools often change depending on the job, so we only send what is needed.

So. in the time your bunkers go up we have to deliver a whole studio from zero for a customer in Ibiza.

This could be interesting, so much could happen to throw a spanner in the works, things are not simple in Ibiza, it's an island, but I'm confident this time, it is our second studio build there now and we are wise to the problems, we like a challenge. We normally keep close to our scheduled timescales as long as the customer spec doesn't change. Ibiza is pretty tightly specified on 13 weeks or about 3 months. (team of 5).

Ibiza isn't small we have two 40ft trailers of materials going over on the ferry this weekend. (control room 7.5m x 6m x 4m - Studio 9m x 6m x 4m).

This is just one set of our tools, there are another two pallets from Sergio's team joining these.

It's going to be great watching the build come closer on here.
Attached Thumbnails
Arda Recording Company - New Studios in Porto, Portugal-26756749_10215252227678532_8254309815256466348_o.jpg   Arda Recording Company - New Studios in Porto, Portugal-26731110_10215261046058986_8620452091965905880_n.jpg   Arda Recording Company - New Studios in Porto, Portugal-26908029_10215261088980059_6426321764283828579_n.jpg   Arda Recording Company - New Studios in Porto, Portugal-26733329_10215261091300117_9031082545843545242_n.jpg  
Old 22nd January 2018
  #26
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Joao B.'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nuisance View Post
It may be a bit early.... But we loaded the tools for this acoustic structure build today!

Sounds mad, but we have a back-to-back so everything that gets shipped out to Ibiza has then to go on to Porto. It's easier as our shipping agent is in Vigo. Sending everything home then re-loading a slightly different set of tools again would be a huge waste of time. Our tools often change depending on the job, so we only send what is needed.

So. in the time your bunkers go up we have to deliver a whole studio from zero for a customer in Ibiza.

This could be interesting, so much could happen to throw a spanner in the works, things are not simple in Ibiza, it's an island, but I'm confident this time, it is our second studio build there now and we are wise to the problems, we like a challenge. We normally keep close to our scheduled timescales as long as the customer spec doesn't change. Ibiza is pretty tightly specified on 13 weeks or about 3 months. (team of 5).

Ibiza isn't small we have two 40ft trailers of materials going over on the ferry this weekend. (control room 7.5m x 6m x 4m - Studio 9m x 6m x 4m).

This is just one set of our tools, there are another two pallets from Sergio's team joining these.

It's going to be great watching the build come closer on here.

Joules, it's awesome to see all those tools and I can't wait to see them building our place in Porto. I hope everything goes well in Ibiza, and it would be great to see that studio come to life as well!
Old 22nd January 2018
  #27
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In the meantime we have settled on a solution for our structural problem, and the engineer's already working on the new plans.

It's not the cheapest solution but it might be the simplest and fastest to build, so maybe we can make up for this delay.

I'm in Los Angeles for the next couple of weeks and I think construction will resume before I get back to Porto.
Old 24th January 2018
  #28
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It's great to see another Newell design coming together in this forum. I'll visit often.
Old 25th January 2018
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hammer Mark View Post
It's great to see another Newell design coming together in this forum. I'll visit often.

Thanks man! Loving your thread here in the forum!
Old 9th February 2018
  #30
Hi João


Joules told me about your studio, looks amazing!
Thread subscribed!


all the best
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