Various architectures

Chã de Lamas, Paredes de Coura. Portugal

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Corno de Bico Nature Interpretation Centre

Atelier da Bouça, arquitectos | Filipa Guerreiro & Tiago Correia

FAD Awards finalist 2008  Architecture
Description Technical file

The protected area of Corno de Bico is a small natural sanctuary situated on the south-eastern limit of Paredes de Coura. The Nature Interpretation Centre stands in the midst of a dense, well-preserved forest rich in oak and different species. Its wooden cladding allow it to completely integrate into the surrounding landscape. The complex has been fitted out to receive visitors and working groups and provides a documentation centre, labs and activities connected with environmental education. Noteworthy among its main objectives are research and raising awareness of the natural resources of this protected area. The complex includes workshops, exhibition hall, auditorium, laboratory and facilities. The global architectural project also contemplates the recovery and adaptation of old buildings such as the Casa do Professor, the Teacher’s House, and the School of Chã de Lamas as sleeping quarters and canteen, respectively. These buildings were erected in the context of the Agricultural Colony of Boalhosa in the late nineteen-fifties.

Located at Chã de Lamas (Vascões, Paredes de Coura) the Environmental Center, main building of Corno de Bico Protected Landscape, was built within the existing complex of Boalhosa agricultural colony (‘Colónia Agrícola da Boalhosa’), a work of the National Settlement Board (Junta de Colonização Interna) (late 1950’s).
The colony represents one of the rare complexes built upon a planed landscape and social housing with a rural context, a plan developed in the 1950’s by the National Settlement Board.
From the original plan the settler houses, the community oven, the school and the teacher's house were built; only the church remained unbuilt.
As the building’s needs in terms of space were greater than those the existing buildings could withstand, and as the necessary enlargement would jeopardize the balance of the complex, it was necessary to find a new and specific location for the Environmental Center’s building.
The fact that the church, a public equipment associated to the square, which was part of the original plan, was not built, presented itself as the adequate location for the construction of this building, from where it's possible to preside over the whole complex and dynamize the square.
Meanwhile, the site of the planned church was during the late 50s, turned into a massive wooded area which we consider, due to its strict geometrical and density characteristics, to be a building on its own. This particularity results in a building conceived as a negative of a large constructed mass, finding space in the existing clearing and rising up to the tree tops. It will let only perceive glimpses of a tree house supported by a forest of columns mingled with the trunks of the trees.
The Environmental Center project is based on a renovation strategy to revitalize the entire complex, by performing a factual analysis of the 1950’s project and of the existing buildings. It proposes the site and program of new volumes using functional analogies in order to have a minimum impact on the colony’s overall image. The proposed new volumes will always interconnect with the existing ones via small passageways which link them. The volumes are distanced between themselves in order to allow an individual view of each of them and also permit, when arriving from the south, an overall view without changes above the two pre-existing equipments.
We establish as premises the renovation of the existing buildings in order to clear away the additions and modifications made to them throughout the years and to maintain their original characteristics. The materialization of the new volumes is made of an exterior cladding of wood which, by differing from the existing buildings, will allow for an individual view of each period. The choice of wood for the new buildings, a natural material that is transformed in the own language and in the general image of the protected landscape, enhances and accentuates the modern character of the existing buildings.
The square has been conceived as a horizontal façade and resonance chamber of the building that sits behind the trees acting as an arrival and entrance space of the building. Various urban equipments have been added (the bench, the lake, the water fountain, aromatic (herbs) garden and lighting) which prove essential for this space to work both as an addition to and complement of the buildings as a privileged set of events, meeting and leisure for the local inhabitants.
The covered square, located underneath the building, was designed to be an artificial island standing out from the remaining natural paving, making it an obvious reception and group gathering area. The building rises from the ground in order to unharm the terrain, one of its distinguishing characteristics, and attempts to resemble a tree-house hung from the trees. The set of columns that support the building are placed in an apparently random organization to make these two realities, the natural and the artificial ones, merge together. This set of columns does not have a mere structural purpose; it goes beyond the building itself enabling focus points over the building by the paths that this set of objects opens leading to or coming from the square. In much the same way the ramps leading to the covered area under the volume, and from there to the first floor, are used as attraction paths both to the built volume and to the massive wooded area.
The analysis we performed on the Resources Centre program led us to design the building as a large container, whose purpose is to be a centre for events, a concentrator of dynamics, a merger of pathways, a setting for passing events. The characterization of the various functional areas set in the program, interlinked and based on the plurality of uses, would allow the construction of a unique space characterized by various moments. The administrative area, the workshop, sanitation facilities and the auditorium will be the only isolated spaces of the program due to the need of privacy and enclosure. The remaining spaces were interpreted understood as being open to continuous links able to be continuously connected and organized by a peripheral uninterrupted circulation system. The lobby was designed to become the space which brings all the programs together and connects to the exhibition hall in order to gain some dimension. The lobby and the exhibition hall may nevertheless be separated by a soft curved suspended curtain. The reception, the storage unit, the laboratory and the documentation centre make the core of the building. A door system allows the spaces to function in different ways, closed or open, as well as giving them room to expand into the adjacent space.
The School, a set made up of the interior space, covered in the outside and courtyard, is based on a single room with a broad relationship with the exterior. It has been renovated (the door and window frames had been altered and were restored in the original logic) and suited perfectly for the installation of the canteen, as it merely needed a small expansion consisting of an independent volume where the technical area of the kitchen was assembled.
Likewise, the Teacher’s House was also renovated, retaining all of its original areas and purposes. It was transformed into an accommodation centre for researchers and a U-shaped volume was added to accommodate the living quarters and remaining support rooms for the general public.

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Emplazamiento: Chã de Lamas, Vascões, Paredes de Coura. Autores: Atelier da Bouça | Filipa Guerreiro e Tiago Correia. Colaboradores proyecto: Mathilde Bauchet y Filipa Fernandes. Colaboradores en obra: Jorge Santos Silva y Rui Alves. Estructura, seguridad contra incendios y aislamiento térmico: Civi4. Alberto Figueiredo, ingeniero. Redes de abastecimento de aguas, aguas pluviales: PCivi4. Pedro Couto, ingeniero. Electricidad y telecomunicaciones: Auditene. Silva Fernandes, ingeniero. Climatización: Auditene. Carlos Guimarães, ingeniero. Acústica: Sopsec. Rui Calejo, ingeniero. Constructor: Carlos José Fernandes & C.ª Lda. Carlos Loureiro, ingeniero, Abel Rodrigues Silva y Cláudio Barbosa, ingeniero. Promotor: Câmara Municipal de Paredes de Coura, Paisagem Protegida do Corno de Bico, ICN. Fotografía: Arménio Teixeira.
Tiago Correia
4050-021 Porto, Portugal
Filipa Guerreiro
4050-021 Porto, Portugal
José Arménio Costa Teixeira
4450-005 Matosinhos, Portugal