#47 Sept/Oct 2012

Platform for arts and creativity, Guimarães

Platform for the Arts, Guimarães (Photo: José Campos)
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Platform for arts and creativity

Platform for arts and creativity

GUIMARÃES (PT) - A multi-purpose space by Pitágoras is carved from the city's fabric without any trace of ostentation.

The northern Portuguese city of Guimarães is 2012 European Capital of Culture, along with Maribor, Slovenia. This aspect, in both form and content, marked the context of this new Platform for the Arts project.


The 2012 European Capital of Culture financed the construction of the building, enhancing two of the main European industries today: tourism and culture. Yet the significant urban renewal linked to this project gives a possible answer for how to deal with past and present in our cities, one of the main issues of European historic preservation nowadays. The chosen site for the project is located next to the historic centre of Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and shows that historic centres are living organisms and palimpsests, and should not be seen as outdoor museums or finished masterpieces.

Continuity and vitality are keywords in this process. Before the intervention, the site housed a U-shaped marketplace requiring urgent and comprehensive transformation. The idea was to radically alter this part of town and restore its lost vitality.

Following a public tender in 2010, Pitágoras Arquitectos was commissioned to design this multi-purpose arts centre and to change the face and function of the old market buildings. With a budget of 12 million euros, most of which came directly from Brussels, the architects had only a year and a half to design and build the entire scheme.

The former courtyard of the marketplace is now a public square, enhancing the project's role in the public life of the city. Moreover, the square was also conceived to act as an urban intersection, linking directly to one of the main streets of the historic centre. In other words, it creates a positive dialogue between the old and the new centralities of the city.

Platform for the Arts, Guimarães (Photo: José Campos)
Platform for the Arts, Guimarães (Photo: José Campos)
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The east wing of the original market building, designed by Portuguese architect Marques da Silva (1869-1947), was restored with small programmatic reconfigurations. On the first floor are retail spaces, and the ground floor, directly connected to the square, is transformed into new workrooms for rent. The north wing is completely rebuilt while keeping its original volumetric shape and street facade. The facade on the square is a glass plane, strengthening the relation between the interior programme – laboratories of creativity and studios – and the outdoor spaces. Finally, the west wing has been demolished to make way for a new gold-coloured Arts Centre. This main building houses a permanent collection of the Portuguese artist José de Guimarães, a temporary exhibition hall, a small library and a multi-purpose auditorium.

The building can be described as a volume carved in search of good urban and human scale. On the square side, hanging volumes mark the entrance and an outdoor auditorium. Conversely, no cut in the building’s mass or visible window can be seen on the flat rear facade. Here the building is revealed in its most abstract form, enhancing an existing narrow street through the continuous, non-communicative facade.

Platform for the Arts, Guimarães (Photo: José Campos)
Platform for the Arts, Guimarães (Photo: José Campos)
Platform for the Arts, Guimarães (Photo: José Campos)

The skin is primarily made of brass panels. The idea, by means of colour and texture, is to clearly make a connection between past and present. Brass, aged by time, will soon match the tones of the historic city. In the carved hollows the skin is formed by dark glass, which together with the brass gives the building a silent and austere appearance. At night, however, it becomes conspicuous in contrast to its placid daytime presence.

Inside, pure white walls match the serenity normally found in exhibition halls. From a central void, which features the entrance, main foyer and museum shop, one can begin an internal promenade through the permanent collection rooms, which vary in size and proportions. This variation gives the visitor a sense of a sequence of spaces rather than an awkward walk through an abstract container. A few windows carefully punctuate some of the rooms, letting in light or allowing exterior views.

The new Platform for the Arts plays a competent role in the city and its architectural panorama, and demonstrates a good equilibrium between risk and tradition. Guimarães was not seeking an icon, and this building certainly avoids that status.

Platform for the Arts, Guimarães (Photo: José Campos)
August | 2012 | Portugal | Carlos M. Guimarães + João Crisóstomo
#47 cover
#47 Sept/Oct 2012

#47 Sept/Oct 2012

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