Viana Do Castelo Multipurpose Pavilion
By Jakob Harry Hybel
The new multipurpose pavilion in the small North-Portuguese city of Viana do Castelo by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Eduardo Souto de Moura is a playfully sculptural addition to a prominent harbor strip.
The pavilion is located at the harbor front next to the historic Praça da Liberdade with its low white-tiled buildings designed by Souto de Moura’s teacher and father of Portuguese modernism, Fernando Távora. On the other side of the square, you’ll find Viana do Castelo Library by Souto de Moura’s one-time collaborator Álvaro Siza.
On this prominent harbor strip – with which the local government hopes to put Viana do Castelo on the map architecturally, boosting the city’s tourism in the process – Souto de Moura’s pavilion could be seen as the punctuation mark. But it is an understated one, highly unobtrusive in scale, referencing the horizontality of Távora’s adjacent buildings.
Heavily inspired by the tectonics of Mies van der Rohe, Souto de Moura’s early single story houses had the same formal strictness and idealized union between walls and roofs as a table between its top and legs. In the Viana do Castelo Pavilion, however, the table metaphor is more articulated than ever – here, it is directly translated into form.
The robustness of the building’s simple and table-like frame enables all the service functions to be placed on top of the “table”, while permitting two of the facades to be completely covered with glass. As such, the pavilion is a clear example of the essentialist reduction that the architect has pursued throughout his career.
The conceptual clarity of the exterior is matched by the simplicity of its interior. Souto de Moura wanted the pavilion to be as transparent as possible. But whereas Siza elevated his neighboring library above ground for the same reason, Souto de Moura opted to lower the building’s centrally placed wood-covered multi-purpose area into the ground. The building thus cleverly stands as an inverted quote of Siza’s library.
Souto de Moura once said that what fascinated him most about Mies van der Rohe, whom he often quotes as his biggest influence, was how he was honest about the principles of construction but lied about the details by covering them up.
Souto de Moura sees no shame in exposing the inner workings of his buildings. With the Viana do Castelo Pavilion he even allows them to become the defining characteristic of the building’s exterior, á la Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
With this in mind, and considering the tectonics of the pavilion’s construction, it is hard not to see it as a discerning tip of the hat to Mies.
|CITY||Viana do Castelo|