The Portuguese architectural scene is still making its way through Southern Europe’s ongoing recession. Major projects have been placed on hold, or even stuttered to a near standstill, casting an air of gloom over a country that sees architecture as integral to its national identity.
The new House of the Arts (or Casa das Artes) in Miranda do Corvo, about 150km south of Porto, bucks the trend in two ways. First up, it’s been completed – a sparkling new arts complex built along the Bilbao model to be a focus for the local community, hosting not just gallery shows but also events. Secondly, it’s red. The country has a long association with white rendered concrete, in both its traditional vernacular architecture and the Critical Regionalism associated with Siza and his followers.
House of the Arts is unashamedly bold. Designed by Miguel Correia of Lisbon-based firm Future Architecture Thinking - no relation to the London-based FAT Architecture – the project is treated as a soaring enclosure, with high, angled roofs referencing the peaks of the nearby Lousã Mountains and generous new landscaping that knits the complex into the suburban context.
Inside, there’s a 300-seater high-tech auditorium and a cafeteria, with plans for a small museum still in hand. From the main foyer space, visitors can access all areas of the new complex, while an outdoor amphitheatre gives the community even more options for future use.
The interplay between angled wall, light and shade, window, slot and landscape makes for a strong, satisfying composition, making the Casa das Artes an unmissable piece of architectural theatre that goes some way to justifying the ‘iconic’ tag used so explicitly by the architects.