Arquipelago – Contemporary Arts Centre, Ribeira Grande, São Miguel, Azores
Architects: Menos é Mais Arquitectos Associados & João Mendes Ribeiro Arquitecto.
Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, on the largest island of the Azores archipelago, the Ribeira’s Contemporary Arts Centre highlights the dialogue between past and present, abstract forms and local typology.
This transdisciplinary project whose mission is to disseminate, create and produce emerging culture is a space of exchange and interface for people, knowledge and events. Designed by Francisco Vieira de Campos and Cristina Guedes, who will be present at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennial, the museum maintains the industrial character of the complex, which had formerly operated as an alcohol and tobacco factory. To the existing buildings built with rugged volcanic stone masonry, the architects added two large concrete buildings. The first occupies a formerly empty part of the site, whilst the other replaces an old damaged structure. Showing a variety of surfaces, textures and roughness, one is covered with a bright white coating and the other left unfinished to reveal basalt aggregate.
According to the architects Vieira de Campos, Guedes and Mendes Ribeiro, the appearing contrast will highlight the dialogue between the former factory and the new constructions, between which they have created a new public square. “We have tried to unite the different scales and times of its parts throughout a pictorial manipulation of the form and the materiality of the buildings.” The massive and abstract volumes of the additions compensate for the patios void. Everything works in perfect harmony with the old volcanic stone buildings. Underlining the place’s architectonical memory, the chosen typologies don’t alter the whole structure. The ACAC acquires its identity by this serene manner. The 12 000-square-metre complex offers exhibition galleries, multi-purpose rooms for performing arts, studios, laboratories and living quarters for resident artists. The containment of spaces enhances the spatial efficiency and the functionality of the different areas. Adjacent to the road, a small courtyard marks the entrance to the new buildings. The theme of light and shadow continues inside, where some spaces show bare walls and tiled floors, whilst others have been painted in white colour and feature wooden surfaces. The aspects of the sustainable performance of the buildings have been integrated through passive heating and cooling systems allowed by the thickness of the concrete walls, through the rainwater harvesting system and through the know-how of craft manufacturin
g combined with the present techniques. Conscious of the ressource management’s contemporary instability and of the generalized individualism, the architects have showed their ability to respect the genius loci where they intervene, to efficiently use the means at their disposal and give a meaning to what exists between past and future.
Photos © José Campos