The mono-functional character of the shopping centre has often made difficult its capacity as a programme to generate a well-balanced urbanity. In this regard, projects developed in the consolidated urban fabric, –projects that are able to instil and restore the sometimes lost desirability of historical centres–, have been civically more successful than the peripheral, car-only ex-urban model of big-box retail.
In this context, this small shopping centre in the hinterland of Portugal is inscribed in the heart of the time-honoured city of Guarda, located on the boundary between its historical core and the disqualified 1980s urban expansion. Designed for an extremely narrow and long plot and bridging a grade level difference of 20 metres between the bordering streets, the building comprises 5 levels of retail and leisure in addition to 3 levels of underground parking. Adjoining the slope, it literally functions as a funicular connecting pedestrians from the lower to the upper town.
Besides the supermarket anchor, this unusual ensemble includes nearly 80 shops, 4 cinemas and a food court with views to the city. Inside, the open void evolves in a revolving crescendo in conjunction with the position of the escalators, that culminates in a large hexagonal skylight designed in a kaleidoscopic combination of terrazzo colour stripes identifying each level. The facade suggests itself as an abstraction of the geological metaphor of the slope, with the layers of the floor levels posited as zigzagging panels of white precast concrete elements, occasionally interrupted by fissures of coloured glass.