Casa dos Cubos. Tomar, Portugal
Environmental Monitoring and Interpretation Offices
Restoration, so called, is the worst manner of Destruction.
Since the last decade of the xx century, it has been usual, especially in old Europe, for the comission of projects to demand the conservation, renovation and conversion of constructions from a recent distant past and from the most diverse typologies, and cultural matrices.
This preservation syndrome, sometimes leads to an overvaluation of the building structures. Age is not a warranty of architectural quality, on the contrary it is a natural selection process. The adequacy to new and contemporary programs can be extremely liable to error. If in certain cases the possibility of adequacy is enrolled in the spatial identity of the building, in others the change of uses reveals itself inadequate, leading to an inconsistent meaning in the character of the building. Sometimes the preservation of the architecture we possess, can be, the worst manner of Destruction.
The project is part of a nationwide and govermental program – the Polis programe. The strategy was to revive cities by introducing new equipements such as the Enviorenmental Monitorizing and Interpretation Offices ( EMIO ) buildings. The aim was for this projects to energize the rehabilitation of the city. The EMIO are public infrastructure for exhibition and other cultural events, concerning environmental and regional subjects.
The Project is a reconversion of a former rundown infrastructure that plays a relevant role in the social and urban context of the city of Tomar, although without any particular architectural interest. The city of Tomar was founded in 1161 by the Order of the Knigths. This infraestructure was built as a storehouse for cereals belonging to the Knights Templar. Located at the beginning of the city historical centre, the building has been subjected to several attachments and changes over the years, finding itself threatened by some decadence and inadequate for the intended use. Was adapted into a bank institution, an industrial storage and finally adapted into offices belonging to the city hall, with new walls, floors, and tecnhical cellings. Eventhough the building it’s protected under historic-preservation ordinances.
The new program comprises two distinct areas: a public area for exhibitions, meetings and cafeteria and a private area consisting of Lecture rooms and accommodation for invited artists.
Confronted with the regulation plans, the design maintains the entire external perimeter construction, while its rundown interior is totally scooped out.
Therefore and due to the functional program, the new construction establishes itself as the anatomy of the existing building. A new architectural body that runs troughout the available space, de-multiplying tectnocically the finite interior into a new series of places and programatic situations.
The private areas are volumetrically defined within the structure and optimized for inhabitability. Each with its own access, atmosphere, identity, shape, use and dimension. The Social life, exhibitions and meetings take place in the interstitial space around the new structure, and are characterized and organized by the programmatic events defined by the enclosed spaces.
The spaces “born” from a visceral simbiosys and from the tension between this architectonic organism and the phisical limits that keep him in captivity.
The existing building aquires a new interior reading, being reconfigured and transformed in a unitarian and hermetic space with the use of white mate paint and mate epoxi resin coating. For the organism that contaminates the interior it was created and developed a kind of skin. A materiality intended to be abstract and simultaneously expressionistic. Through some kind of alchemy a substance was developed, a recipe, by conjoining some “ingredients”: Dark pigment, Acrylic resin and reflective glass spheres. The entrails of this animal were painted with glossy white paint and with glossy epoxi resin coating. A new interior within an interior interior.
The most challenging and seductive in the design process was claiming and believing in the possibility of transforming the spatial structure in a laboratory. Seeking and testing solutions capable of awsering to a particular project ideal¸ wich inevitably diverge from the generalistic processes of standarization. A machine capable of producing space, instaled in a shell that was progressivly deflated and then insuflated with a new and strange form of life.
COMPETITION: July 2003 / August 2003 (1º Prize)
PROJECT: October 2003 / January 2005
CONSTRUCTION: November 2005 / December 2006
FLOOR AREA: 980,34 m2
BUDGET: 452.599,99 €