No man-made material on Earth is more widely used in construction than concrete. As mentioned in a recent article covering concrete façades in Japan, this durable material can be found everywhere, no matter the climate, vernacular traditions or geographic context. With countless designs in any shape, size and color, how do we begin to understand concrete and its application as we create new cities and respond to historic conditions? Building upon that Japanese feature, this collection examines concrete’s role in Portugal, showcasing how context, design culture and innovative processes allow new concepts and spaces to emerge.
The announcement of Eduardo Souto de Moura as the 2011 Pritzker Prize Laureate brought renewed attention to Portugal’s architecture and its inventive use of concrete. The following group of projects examines new forms being built across the country, incorporating diverse programs, scales and environmental conditions. Utilizing various combinations of aggregates, textures and reinforcing materials, the designs all explore how we experience envelopes and the liminal condition between interior and exterior space.
Centre for Interpretation of the Battle of Atoleiros by Gonçalo Byrne Arquitectos, Fronteira, Portugal
Designed to communicate the story of the Portuguese civil war, the Centre for Interpretation was created with a vibrant red concrete façade. The coarse concrete was used to recall textures made by the human hand and the uneven construction of medieval buildings. A slotted void cuts across the building, opening up to glazing, galleries and a long bench that looks onto the nearby park.
This social center was designed as a carved block form in Brufe, Portugal. The program includes a day care, rest home, offices and service areas. The concrete façade was imagined as an opaque, dense surface with minimal perforations.
Arguably Souto de Moura’s most famous work, the Braga Stadium was created with many subtle and powerful design moves; for example, the stadium’s careful positioning allowing people outside the arena to also watch the match. The building is carved out of the adjacent quarry, and steel cables combine with a canopy roof to connect both sides of the field. Concrete stands were carefully slotted and aligned with existing landscape conditions.
A secondary school located in Pontinha’s urban fabric, Braamcamp Freire is a rehabilitation project of an existing school built in 1986. The new design was created to reorganize spaces, articulate different functional areas and open the school up to the community. A combination of in situ and prefabricated concrete elements make up the façade and respond to solar orientation.
Vodafone’s Headquarters in Porto was conceived around the companies slogan “Life in Motion.” The dynamic, flowing façade uses irregular and free-form concrete to express plasticity and fluidity. The concrete shell reduced internal structural support while allowing greater versatility throughout the interior spaces.
These two houses by the bank of the River Minho were created for a father and son. They are joined together by a large, pre-stressed concrete flagstone. The strong horizontal gesture begins to frame different landscape conditions and shape both the circulation and views on site.
A social housing complex for the elderly, these buildings were created as an investigation into different life styles and the relationship between privacy and community. Streets, plazas and gardens were imagined as outdoor extensions of the houses themselves. Exposed concrete and plexiglass were the primary materials used for the project, where the concrete grounds the structures and supports the functions above.
The Melgaço Sports School was designed as a serene, integrated learning atmosphere combined with a sports campus. The program serves as a central hub for administrative, social and educational activities. An anchored concrete volume helps articulate the social and administrative functions of the program, while a lighter white volume houses the educational areas above.