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Carnival is celebrated in Portugal since the 13th century, occupying a central position in the collective imaginary of Torres Vedras.

The project for the Carnival Arts Centre (CAC) materializes this collective reference, transforming a ruined slaughterhouse and a disabled quarry, while offering a plaza to a marginalized neighbourhood in order to establish a new civic and urban vitality.

This neighborhood, located on S. Vicente Hill, had grown around the quarry and the slaughterhouse until they both closed down and became a decaying fragment on the edge of the city. However, the remains of the slaughterhouse preserved its iconographic value, which reflected the identity of the place, and the quarry, once taken as pasture for the slaughterhouse livestock, resulted as a platform embraced by an escarpment, whose size, shape and materiality gave a dreamlike feeling to the site.

The old slaughterhouse was rehabilitated to serve as CAC main entrance, containing exhibition rooms and the shop, directly related to the street. The traces of a courtyard that existed in its core, for the animals' blood ventilation and drainage, were transformed in order to become a circular staircase that, combined with a large skylight, is the starting point to the exhibition route and the structural support of the of the main exhibition container where a large window frames the view of the crater and the informal cityscape.

The old platform is now a urban plaza whose form is a result of the geometry suggested by the shape of the crater, thus qualified by the mass of the escarpment in continuity with the elliptical surface of the new body that contains the sky lit visitable deposits, and animated by the presence of the cafeteria and the museum workshops, widely opening into a covered outdoor gallery.

Above all, it is expected that CAC will have a place-making capacity as house and urban-theater for the celebration of Carnival, as well as stage for the daily practices of citizens, so this neighbourhood will become again part of space and time of the city.

Design Team:

Architecture: José Neves

Collaborators: Rui Sousa Pinto, André Matos, Fernando Freire, Sara Brandão, Vitor Quaresma, Vasco Melo, Paulo Cunha (project phase); Carlos Almada, Diogo Amaro, Inês Oliveira, João Tereso (construction phase); João Pernão, Maria Capelo (colour consultants)

Awards and Nominations:

Nominated MIES VAN DER ROHE Award, European Prize for Contemporary Architecture 2022

Nominated XIII SECIL Architecture Award 

Selected  BIGMAT ’21 International Architecture Award

Selected  CONSTRUIR ’21 Architecture Award

1st Prize Public Competition for the Carnival Arts Centre, Torres Vedras, 2012


José Neves, Centro de Artes e Criatividade de Torres Vedras: O CAC,a Cidade e a Praça - The CAC, the City and the Square, (Conversation with André Tavares and photographs by Paulo Catrica), Câmara Municipal de Torres Vedras, 2024

SALEMA, Isabel, Este edifício é uma Máscara in Jornal Público - Ípsilon, 23 Abril 2021, pp. 1-7

Centro de Artes do Carnaval, Torres Vedras in ARQA, Arquitectura e Arte, 2º Trimestre 2021, Ano XXI, nº141, pp. 80-93

COSTI, Dario and MANFREDI, Francesco (eds.), Atlante Europeo - Torres Vedras in Rigenerare le Comunità Urbane, Atlante Europeo e Linee Guida per le Città Italiane, Lettera Ventidue Edizioni, Siracusa, 2022, pp. 118-123 

Carnival Arts Center in BLASI, Ivan and SALA GIRALT, Anna (eds.), Catalogue Eu Mies Awards 2022, Fundació Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona, 2022, pp. 89-90

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