Musealization of the Archaeological Area of Praça Nova do Castelo by João Luís Jorge Carrilho da Graça Architects located in London, England | The Hardt
The hill now occupied by the Castle of St. George is the first site of human occupation – dating from the Iron Age – that would transfigure in place the strategic elevation over the Tagus estuary and its interior territory that gave birth to the city of Lisbon. In the walled area, the Praça Nova do Castelo occupies an intramural promontory, delimited by defensive structures to the north and west, and by the Santa Cruz Church to the south, a promontory with a visual domain that extends over the walls to the East, from the city at your feet to the horizon of the estuary. An extensive archaeological excavation of this site, begun in 1986, exhibited traces of its successive occupation periods – settlement of the Iron Age, medieval Muslim dwellings and a 15th century palace – with the most relevant artifacts being removed and exhibited at the Castle Museum, the excavation being open to the intervention of protection and musealization.
This intervention addressed the themes of the protection, revelation, and reading of the palimpsest that any archaeological excavation represents, with a pragmatic intention to clarify the palindromic character that the exposed structures suggest in their spatial distribution. Thus, the first action was the clear delimitation of the archaeological site with a precise incision, comparable to the surgical incision in a living body. A corten steel membrane was inserted to contain the raised perimeter topography, allowing either access or a panoramic view of the site, evolving the materiality of this incision slowly and inexorably as a living tissue. The same precision of cut characterizes the elements inscribed in the site that allow the comfortable drift of the visitor – steps, skates, and benches, marmoreal and perennial – distinguishing them from the rough texture of exposed walls and foundations.
Descending to the excavated surface, to its simultaneous first spatial level and last level of occupation – the vestiges of a pavement of the Palace of the Bishops of Lisbon -, a console structure protects the mosaics, structure whose obverse is a black mirrored surface that returns to the visitor the vertical perspective on the pavement, this perspective that the elevated location of the pavement does not allow it to be direct. Moving forward on the site and in its timeline, the necessary cover for the protection of the eleventh-century Muslim domestic structures and the frescoes on which they subsist was taken as an opportunity to reproduce, through a conjectural interpretation, their spatial experience as a sequence of independent spaces organized around courtyards that introduced light and ventilation to dwellings otherwise enclosed outside. Declared abstract and scenographic, the white walls that enact the domestic spatiality of the two excavated dwellings float on the visible wall sections, anchoring themselves on the ground at the mere six points where these sections permit, while their translucent polycarbonate and slats of wood, filters the sunlight.
Underlying the entire archaeological site, the vestiges of the occupation of the Iron Age are exposed and protected by a compact volume that, in a spiraling movement, detaches itself from the bordering corten steel walls to embrace the well needed for its revelation. Massive and dramatic, this volume is punctually fenestrated by horizontal features that invite the curiosity of the observation of its interior, leading the visitor around the excavation pit to the point the view is unobstructed and both the physical and temporal distances of the exposed structures are made evident. The palimpsest of the site’s history is thus decoded and the possibility of its clarified temporal and spatial palindromic reading not only through the reading of the written information accompanying the visit, but above all, and significantly, through the experience built by the materialization of its protection and musealization.
© FG + SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra
Architects: Carrilho da Graça Architects – João Luís Carrilho da Graça
Built area: 3500 m²
Type of project: Cultural
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Detached 4 floors: Detache
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Private House won the RIBA National Award in 2012 and was nominated for the RIBA Manser Medal.
Photos by: Hufton + Crow
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Light House (2005) by Gianni Botsford located in London, UK | The Hardt
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The empty site was essentially a box 130 ft (40 meters) deep by 50 ft (15 meters) wide 32 ft (10 meters) high on one side and up to 26 ft (8 meters) high on the other sides, consisting of brick party walls. We were not able to apply any pressure to the party walls having to build an entirely independent structure and had a requirement for very large planes of walls extending up to the top of the 32 ft (10 m) high wall. In situ exposed concrete was a natural choice- it acts as an environmental moderator (the house is naturally ventilated), the exposed finishes put workmanship on display, and structurally there was a requirement for large vertical cantilevers and beams. A grillage of deep tapering beams spans from vertical cantilevers 26 ft (8m)-32 ft (10m) high and 105 ft (32 m) long, forming the high-level enclosure to the room below. These ‘rooms’ range in size from 60 ft (18m) x 10 ft (3 m) at the largest to 10 ft (3 m) x 10 ft (3 m) at the smallest.
The complexity of achieving this apparent simplicity was deceptive. 14 separate party wall awards were required and the site is only accessible through an arch 10 ft (3 m) wide and 13 ft (4 m) high. The vertical cantilevers needed to be built within 6 inches (150mm) of the existing walls, and no pressure could be placed on the party walls during construction. Our subcontractor developed a method utilizing specially designed and fabricated steel shuttering at the back of the wall taking the forces through to the front of the shuttering, which was propped back onto the slab. Due to the restricted nature of the site, the project had to be built from the back of the site in stages towards the front of the site, as mobile drainage was the only solution possible for placement of concrete and movement of shuttering.
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The house is naturally ventilated, which is controlled by means of thermal mass, shading, and air movement. The roof, although made of 3,230 ft² (300 m²) of glass, has a highly effective solar coating, three different frit densities to the glass, electrically operated blinds, and opening vents, all of which contribute to a high level of control of the internal environment by the occupants. A very restricted palette of materials was used throughout the house, consisting of stainless steel, concrete, glass, and aluminum. Polished concrete screed floors, stainless steel lined swimming pool and bathrooms, exposed concrete structure to the walls and beams, stainless steel kitchen, aluminum framed sliding doors and windows, the perforated corrugated stainless steel used as cladding and external screens and doors.
ⓒ HÉLÈNE BINET
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