Conversion of the Laboratório Chimico – Science Museum
Located in the “Alta” of Coimbra, the Laboratório Chimico stands where the old building of the “Colégio dos Jesuitas” was.
The Colégio was built between 1773 to 1775 according to the design of Ricardo Franco de Almeida Serra and Guilherme Elsden, to support the practical subjects of the faculties.
The building, with an L shaped floor plan, brings together the original construction – with a Pombaline design - and the construction of the new wing, parallel to the main façade of the Museum of Natural History. Both building’s façades were built in a neoclassical style and divided by Doric columns.
The Restoration and preservation works of the building of the Laboratório Chimico to house the Science Museum was based mainly on eliminating formal or stylistic ambiguities resulting from the various interventions in the building, over different periods of time and on eliminating the uncontrolled additions built over the years.
The project has two distinct phases which are intrinsically related – repair and refurbishing – based on the principle of transparency between the new and the old, by distinctly marking the past and the present.
In the restoration works we tried to maintain the original construction systems, as well as the traditional materials for the refurbishing and finishings, so as not to loose the identity and the historical significance of the building.
The remodelling involved the redefinition of the museum space, in order to make it more flexible and customised to the present requirements of versatility. The definition of a new way to exhibit meets the functional requirements of a Museum without, however, interfering in the original characteristics of the areas inside the building. The conventional dividing wall was replaced with movable and multifunctional panels, created to bring together services, equipment and infra-structures.
The natural light control inside the building is done by repositioning and building new doorways, in order to adapt it to specific programs and provide specific lighting for each of them. In the exhibition halls the space is light in a homogeneous manner by diffused and neutral lights, with controlled intensity, eliminating any shadow and creating an abstract ambiance. In the case of the non exhibition areas, a total freedom of the light is proposed, eliminating the filters and accepting the natural mutations, so as to prevent an artificial ambiance.
While the area inside the Laboratório Chimico is reserved and regulated by the running of the Museum, in the exterior, the patio, the belvedere and the cafeteria have independent entrances and may be used not only by visitors but also by the population in general.
The elimination of the walls in the South and North of the building of the Laboratório Chimico has had a great improvement on the liveliness of the path next to the wall and also for the urban integration of the building, reinforcing the aims of an extended plan for the “Alta” of Coimbra, as planned by architect Gonçalo Byrne.
Project year: 2001 to 2003
Construction year: 2003 to 2006
Client: Universidade de Coimbra, University of Coimbra
Location: Coimbra, Portugal
Architecture: João Mendes Ribeiro, Carlos Antunes, Désirée Pedro
Collaboration: Filipa Jorge, Hugo Santos, Manuela Nogueira, Rafael de Sousa, Rafael Vieira, Ana Cerqueira, Cátia Marques, Isabel Correia, Pedro Martins
Commission for the Museum's program: Michel van Praet, Gonçalo Byrne, João Rui Pita, Paulo Gama Mota
Structural Engineer: Paulo Maranha Tiago
Hydraulic Installations: Maria Fernanda Sobral
Electrical and Security Installations: Pascoal Faísca
Mechanical Installations: João Madeira da Silva
Gas Installations: Paulo Sampaio
Thermal consulting: Celsa Vieira
Acoustic consulting: Celsa Vieira
Fire Consulting: Paulo Maranha Tiago
Archaeology and Geology Consulting: Sónia Filipe, Paulo Morgado
Conservation and Stone Restoration Consulting: Fernando Marques
Lightning Designer: Gilberto Reis
Landscape Design: João Mendes Ribeiro, Carlos Antunes, Désirée Pedro
Contractor: Reis, Rocha e Malheiro Lda
Photography: Emanuel Brás, FG+SG – Fotografia de Arquitectura