Throughout the last decades, the Castle of Pombal and its surrounding area have been doomed to seclusion from the core of the city at their feet. For the ordinary city user, the Castle was only a background for the everyday, a mere identity reference that resonated with the history of the city more than with an actual experience of it. The project for the reorganization of Pombal Castle’s hill was launched by the city’s municipality with the goal of promoting the re-centralization of that area.
The basic brief of the commission encouraged a design that would help fostering the use of that historic area by both residents and tourists. The basis of the design strategy was thus an attempt to deliver an approach were the new designed elements should be clearly defined against the background of both the natural and the built pre-existing elements, without challenging the latters’ character, tough. To achieve this goal, the project defined three areas, each of which with a different conceptual approach.
In the first area, the south and west slopes of the hill, the approach was focused on the idea of flow. This idea was thus developed creating and highlighting connections between the urban areas at the bottom of the Castle’s hill, pathways along the slopes and gazebos to provide shelter and foster diverse experiences in the contact with the landscape. The materials used were prominently plastered walls, stone and grit pavements, and wooden structures.
In the second area, the surroundings of the cemetery, the approach was concerned with the idea of topological infrastructure. Both the parking area and the adjacent facilities were designed as topographical elements, concrete walls supporting the transition between sharp differences of levels.
Finally, the third area, surrounding the walled precinct, aimed at enhancing the presence of the Castle as the area’s main reference. Hence, the western access to the 12th century Castle was redesigned, including the platform at its bottom. The surrounding area of 16th century Santa Maria’s Church was also redesigned to provide a public space that could foster its appropriation as a privileged stage for performances and other cultural activities. The material that is thoroughly used in this area is a local limestone, the same originally used in the main landmarks: the Castle and the Church’s ruins.
To work as a connector between these three areas, a cafeteria was designed, proving thus an additional element to attract visitors to the area. To highlight its singular role in the overall intervention, the cafeteria was built using a metallic structure and finished with cor-ten steel panels cladding both on its façades and roofs. This solution embodies, thus, the design’s strategy of affirming the new against the pre-existing preserving, however, the identity of the place. With this project we aimed at creating a delicate balance between nature and artefact.