The Urgeiriça Mines opened in Canas de Senhorim, Nelas, Portugal, in the beginning of the 20th century, when uranium deposits were discovered in the region, one of the oldest in the world.
The working conditions in these mines were particularly harsh, in very humid conditions, where workers breathed the radioactive particles in suspension, that could exist.
The program required the environmental requalification of the former Industrial Area of Urgeiriça, and, at the same time, it was intended that the site served as a significant legacy of the previous mining activity.
The project focused on two complementary objectives: one of an environmental nature, the chemical and radiological decontamination of all buildings and equipments; and another of conservation and valorization of this particular industrial architecture.
The principle was to recover and rehabilitate the built complex - the Chemical Treatment, the Crushing and Walkway buildings, together with the apparatus of the uranium treatment work - according to the inicial construction documents; and, simultaneously, give it a new public function - an interpretation centre of the former mines - with a new meaningful image.
First, the walls and roofs were unveiled, to reveal the supporting structure, the network of infrastructures, and the machines, devices and performative mechanisms that inhabit the spaces, and thus show its organisation; then, a new black protective enclosure was provided, that both filters the light and serves for the interior to breathe.
This armour is composed of angled slats that bend the light outwards, and the portion that passes through imprints the spaces and objects with an atmosphere of silence that awakens and highlights emotion.
By day the buildings stand out black and heavy, and by night, light and diaphanous: Thus, we must remember that if we are impressed by the idea of the world made up of weightless atoms, it is because we experience the weight of things; …
Italo Calvino, “Six Proposals for the Next Millennium”