Shiny metal cladding and exposed ducting lend an industrial feel to this auditorium for a virtual-reality research centre in Portalegre, Portugal, by Eduardo Souto de Moura and Graça Correia (+ slideshow).
The auditorium is part of a masterplan developed by Souto de Moura – the 2011 Pritzker laureate, responsible for buildings including the Paula Rêgo Museum in Cascais – and regular collaborator Graça Correia. The pair is gradually transforming a former industrial estate into a campus for the International Centre for Technology in Virtual Reality (ICT-VR).
The overall objective of the ICT-VR is to promote the development and use of virtual-reality technologies through teaching, and providing access to dedicated hardware and software.
The Auditório Audiovisual is located at the end of a row of old warehouse and factory buildings that the architects converted to accommodate the centre’s main amenities, including classrooms and a music auditorium. The new building is designed specifically for audiovisual presentations but can also be used for lectures and conferences.
The transformation of the buildings into the ICT-VR focused on retaining their industrial character, and the audiovisual auditorium continues this direction with its function-led form and use of basic materials.
Related story: Key projects by Eduardo Souto de Moura
The building’s technical services are arranged on the roof. Ducting for heating and ventilation that extends down one side of the building creates a feature that references the dust-collecting machinery found around the site.
“This building was thought [out] with a building system and image that refers to the configuration of the various ‘metal machines’ – authentic sculptures that point the whole factory,” said the architects. “Like these, the infrastructure and pipelines are apparent and are part of the composition of the elevations.”
Like the dust collectors, the building is raised above the ground on metal pillars and features an entirely solid exterior clad in metal panels fixed together with standing seams.
The underside of the auditorium slopes upwards to indicate the position of the banked seating inside and to create an open space below that limits its visual presence on the site.
Related stories: see more from Eduardo Souto de Moura
The entrance is accessed by ascending stairs to the rear, which are set into the rock of the adjacent hill and lead to a short metal bridge crossing the gap between the rocks and the door. Another bridge extends from the roof to the level of the street on top of the hill.
An additional staircase at the side closest to the main campus building offers an alternative way in and out of the building.
Inside, the auditorium features a curved ceiling intended to improve acoustics within the space. Rows of flip-down chairs arranged along the banked solid wood steps are the only furnishings.
Elsewhere on the site, the architects converted a shed with vaulted roofs into a parking garage and events space, and added a new building housing a hotel and tourism school, which is located directly opposite the auditorium.
Souto de Moura often collaborates with other architects, most notably with long-term friend and fellow Pritzker winner Álvaro Siza. Other recent projects by the architect include a cultural centre in Viana do Castelo that resembles a giant machine.
Photography is by Luís Ferreira Alves and Christian Richters.
Architecture: Eduardo Souto de Moura and Graça Correia
Client: Robinson fondation
Collaborators: Ana Neto Vieira, Nuno Miguel Ferreira, Telmo Gervásio Gomes, Ricardo Cardoso, Pedro Gama, Hugo Natário, Inês Ruas, Rita Breda, Luís Diniz, Nuno Vasconcelos, Ana P. Carvalho, Ana L. Monteiro, João Marques, Maurícia Bento, Elisama Reis
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