Centre for Visual Arts in Coimbra
Architects: João Mendes Ribeiro, Coimbra
Assistants: Ana Bacelar, Eduardo Mota, Manuela Nogueira, Nuno Barbosa, Pedro Grandão, Susana Lobo, Vitor Canas
Structural engineer: José Carlos Ferreira, Ciombra
In the past, the building in the central Portuguese university city Coimbra which presently houses this centre for visual art has had a host of different uses. Although built in the sixteenth century in the heart of the historic centre to house the “Colégio das Artes”, for years it accommodated a courthouse and a correctional facility. Following this overhaul, the west wing will once again focus on the arts.
On the ground floor, numerous mobile wall panels make different exhibition arrangements possible. The result: versatile spaces which play host to a variety of special events. A stairway receiving light from a funnel-like, plasterboard-clad skylight above leads to the upper floor, which is bisected longitudinally by a central bearing wall. Laboratories, archives and dark rooms are contained in an austere wooden enclosure on one side of the wall. On the other side there are offices, a library and exhibition space. The ceiling deck separating the upper level from the attic was removed, exposing the timber roof trusses and uniting the two zones.
For the renovation and refurbishment of the existing building, special attention was paid to conservation and archaeological issues. The architect’s primary goal was to develop a contemporary architectural language capable of coalescing old and new, and past and present.
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