Meeting Centre in Grândola
The Meeting Centre in Grânola sits stoically, a large white mass; crisp horizontal edge against the blue Portuguese sky. Aires Mateus Architects’ (AMA) of Lisbon, Portugal, have designed a cleverly carved monolith with an accommodating and stunning internal layout, affirming its centralized position as the new community-meeting centre in the small town of Grândola, a municipality in the Setúbal district of Portugal’s Alentejo region
The project, commissioned by Santa Casa da Misericódia de Grândola, is located centrally in the town of Grândola on a de-congested corner site of 670 sq.m. Its semi-detached location to other buildings results in the square building seeming setback and isolated from its neighboring historic buildings. Studio directors and brothers, Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus have utilized the new volumes distance, to reflect and showcase certain datum visible in the historic surrounds. This language is evident as a formal play of vertical void against the horizontal solid reading of the exterior; illuminating the “context in its distances, alignments, and proportions” Whilst the isolation sets apart the building as a new iconic and civic gesture, the local context is also tied back into the building as a dialogue of silhouetted voids of its surrounds; present in all elevations of the buildings.
The stark white volume, now punctuated by two recessed voids on each elevation, tether the modern and sculptural building back to the scale and location of the surrounding buildings and begin to define the structures beautifully thick mass. The voids of the exterior, marking entrance and aperture, respectfully mirror the surrounding context of Grândola; allowing a reading of the project to be something that is cast against and from its neighbouring buildings directly. The now visibly deep peripheral wall helps define the object as a whole, where passers-by understand the building by observing the interaction between the smaller peripheral spaces and the occupied façade.
The community centre is capable of hosting large gatherings as well as much smaller groups. The flexibility of the desired programmatic requirements informed the project’s interior layout. Modestly sized meeting rooms and adaptable spaces treat the perimeter, while a much more substantial volume sits at the centre of the plan, capable of containing much larger groups of people. This organisation allows the façade to appear occupied at its exterior – comparative to the closeness of a living room or restaurant window; showcasing approachability to the new communal building. These spaces are also matched proportionally to visual cues and frames of the surrounds.
The ceiling answers the program by responding to the outline of the modest spaces with a sharply undulating language, providing the interior with inclined planes that lead to carefully positioned apertures, serving to naturally illuminate the building. The simplicity of the horizontal construction outside is contrasted against the complexity of the terrain of the ceiling. This dichotomy of language between exterior and interior allows for the façade to be read with complete horizontal clearness and strengthens the weight and importance of the vertical voids cut into the buildings’ exterior. Where, from a distance, it can still be read as a finely sculpted piece of marble; yet visible in the interaction of the interior and the deep occupied façade are visibly bright and naturally illuminated civic spaces.
These architectural moves are a great showcase of Aires Mateus’ distinctive language, design aesthetic and method, creating a final building that “is determined by the interaction of internal space and occupied façade.” This results in a beautifully-modern addition to the regional and historical town of Grândola and a lasting community space for the residents.