The project presented the challenge of addressing the great complexity of the public space and the various traffic and urban problems of the historic centre of Castelo Branco. The aim of the Centre, furthermore, was to turn the old town into a cultural nerve centre for the city.
The Arts Centre floats on two piles over the plaza, like a bridge, freeing up at its base a covered ice-skating rink, and giving continuity to this large public space, to the square and to the adjacent park.
With its wooden façade, in contrast to the zinc-clad reinforced concrete of the suspended part, it is a bubble of activity, a roof and a floor that floats above the site, relating the urban sequence, the plaza and the park.
The square, designed in the first phase (2007), is moulded to the site to deal with the initial topographic problems and accommodate the various buildings designed to go there. Located on the slope of the hill that leads to the castle, it exploits the topography to form crosswise strips, giving rise in the central space of the project to a plaza whose gentle slopes give rise almost naturally to a pool of water in the centre of the plaza, in front of the Arts Centre.
Inside the building, the ground floor is just a transition space, connecting with the floors above. On the outside, however, this floor is the manifestation of the connection between the plaza and the arts centre, housing an ice rink that extends from one side of the building to the other and interacts directly with its setting, becoming a hub of activity. It is an outdoor space that generates movement, colour, light at night and music.
On the higher levels, we find the auditorium and a gallery that mimic the structure of the building, forming double-height spaces.
At one end, the exhibition hall occupies the first and second floors, with a ramp to change level that accompanies the structure of the building. In this way, the visitor has an overview of the space.
At the other end, the auditorium also moulds naturally to the curve of the building with its seating arrangement. All in black, it contrasts with the lighter tones of the stage to focus the audience’s attention.