NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

 

Two white museums sit beside each other in the city of San Tirso, Portugal. Constructed three centuries apart, the two buildings differ in style, size and purpose but share a common visual and spatial sensibility. Pritzker Prize winning architects and collaborated to restore the Municipal Museum Abade Pedrosa (MMAP) and construct the new International Contemporary Sculpture Museum (MIEC). Simplicity and clarity are the prevailing qualities of this project and there are some exquisite, jaw-dropping moments that will send you packing for northern Portugal.

The newly renovated MMAP museum occupies parts of the Monastery of Sao Bento, a significant heritage site and a National Monument. The architects went to great lengths to restore the 18th century building to its original composition with granite masonry, white plastered facade, pillars, cornices and clay-tiled roof. Located on the top floor of the Monastery’s guesthouse, the MMAP houses the archaeological collection across seven gallery spaces arranged in a linear sequence. Within each of the interconnected galleries is an immaculately detailed glass cabinet that looks as though it’s floating in space. The museum also consists of an atrium, cafeteria, administration offices, documentation centre and computer centre. The interiors of MMAP are crisp and purposeful but also somewhat eerie and cold. Marble panels wrap around the walls at waist height while timber furniture used to soften the mostly white pallet of the walls, ceiling and joinery.

 

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

NUEC + MMAP Museums in Portugal by Alvaro Siza + Eduardo Souto de Moura | Yellowtrace

 

The two museums are hinged at a shared entrance point through the MIEC. The brand new MIEC museum is sleek, linear and decidedly minimal. It’s a stripped down version of the MMAP but its modest presence is reinforced by the fact that it is only goes up to the cornice line of the Monastery. Not only does the new wing sit cohesively within the historic site but it does so without disturbing or overlapping surrounding buildings. The slender, rectangular volume was designed to be visually independent but it also observes historical cues. White plastered walls and sharp lines define the form while the same clay tiles of the monastery line the flat roof. Inside the spaces maintain the minimal aesthetic of the exterior with white walls and marble used for flooring and wall panelling. Feast your eyes on some of the most exquisite detailing going around. Case in point is the impossible fluidity of marble around a staircase that’s both angular and curved or the round shafts of light that emerge unexpectedly within the mostly windowless space.

Through the renovation and new construction of the MMAP and MIEC, the architects have established an intrinsic link between old and new while still championing independent form and language. Instead of creating an embellished architectural statement, the skin and bones of the historical buildings take centre stage and the original materials add flavour and adornment. Clarity and simplicity are certainly qualities instilled in this project and the result is architecture that speaks of its time and place. So let’s get packing, shall we?

 


[Photography by .]

 



About The Author

Fenina Acance

Architecting away in Melbourne, Fenina is a shameless fashion, art and design fanatic who loves defying the relentless Melbournian uniform of black on black on black. Often spotted strutting a boisterous mix of pattern and colour, her eclectic love for the bold, raw and textured fuels her passion for design and contemporary art. When not indulging in Cy Twombly’s sensitive scribbles or Serra’s evocative sculptural forms, her love for everything Italian consumes the rest of her time. Whether it’s the language, design or food (especially food), Fenina is obsessed!

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