Behind the intricate tiled facades and terracotta roofs, the city of Porto is slowly crumbling away. Today 32% of the historic city centre is in a state of decay. Much of the city’s architectural heritage is at risk of being lost forever.
In response to this neglect, the Massarellos School of Construction provides a nurturing learning environment where students are trained with specialist practical and theoretical skills to successfully rehabilitate the city’s sensitive urban fabric. By combining college level teaching, university level research and small start-up businesses, the facility becomes a holistic hub for construction knowledge, blurring the boundary between academic teaching and the commercial reality. Questioning the role of current educational buildings, the scheme explores the idea of a ‘living demonstrator’ and presents a model for sustainable construction.
Set amongst the derelict remains of a former Massarellos Ceramics Factory, the design acknowledges the warehouse typology whilst embracing modern craft and construction techniques. It draws influence from traditional Portuguese vernacular, particularly through the use of materials and the interpretation of pattern. With sensitive interventions and spatial planning around existing structures, the site’s industrial heritage is preserved and celebrated, setting a precedent for creative reuse throughout the rest of the city.
It tackles the problem of contextualising in a decaying urban fabric, a common preoccupation in many of our cities, looking for responsible urban regeneration. The school project tackles the brief by connecting it to its surroundings and its access points, by responding to the topography and existing imposing structures like the overhead bridge. It does this physically with the tower of the liftshaft, but also asserts its presence with the same sign. A more subtle expression of building forms and spaces diversify the school functions, as for example from the harsher laboratories on the ground floor to the airy, comfortable work spaces on the first floor. The project correctly combines regard for energy use and sustainability of materials with the characteristics of user needs. The layering of building materials, forms and juxtaposition of volumes, all hint at the didactic process of construction – which is the School’s role.
This projects is awarded with The European Architectural Medal for Best Diploma Project.