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The construction of an object suitable for screening an open-air cinema programme was the pretext for transforming the main square of the Belém Cultural Center, in Lisbon (Manuel Salgado and Vittorio Gregotti, 1992), into a living space for the thousands of people who visit CCB during the summer months.

There were three fundamental circumstances for the project, namely:

1. The Square is a place of constant movement, providing access to the Museum, the restaurant and the hanging garden overlooking Tagus river;

2. The architecture of the CCB building is ruled by a metric made evident by the grid marked out on the ground, the repetition of the cleft limestone slabs, and the design and arrangement of the openings;

3. The blocks of black cork composite, manufactured by Amorim Isolamentos, was the material defined by the client a priori.

We designed a wall made of black cork, creating a paneling-like lining along the south wall which stays in the shade for nearly the whole day, integrating a cool and comfortable bench, that allows one to contemplate the urban spectacle of the movement in the Square.

The cork wall is itself a modulated wall that establishes a rhythm that takes advantage of the coincidence between the metric that governs CCB building (7,5mx7,5m) and the standard dimension of the cork blocks (1,00mx0,50mx0,30m).

The height of the cork wall is that of the base of the existing concrete arch, giving a human scale to the entire square.

At the western end, the wall turns and closes the existing passage with a cork grid, making a corner where it is possible to watch the films, sheltered from the wind, at night.

The material qualities of cork thus mean that the transformation of the square will not only be about experiencing its new scale, but also about perceiving its materiality. By joining the solid blocks of cork, whose color is made of a thousand brown tones that change over time and have a texture that is rude, soft and warm all at once, the slabs of cleft limestone that clad the walls of the CCB building became lighter, more fragile.  There was probably not a single person crossing the square without coming over to touch the cork with his own hands.

Rather than design an object, it was about taking advantage of the existing space, profoundly redefining its character in order to transform the CCB Square in a Square in Summer.

Design Team:

Architecture: José Neves

Collaborators: Diogo Amaro

Awards and Nominations:

Selected Premis FAD Intervencions Efímeres 2018

Selected Habitar Portugal 2012-2017 - Espaço Público: Uma Casa para Todos


Uma Praça no Verão, CCB, Lisboa, in Habitar Portugal 2012-2017 - Espaço Público: Uma Casa para Todos, Ordem dos Arquitectos, Lisboa, pp. 50, 124-125, 273

A Square in Summer, Belém Cultural Center, Lisbon, in Landscape Design, Julho 2018, nº88, China, pp. 56-65

Uma Praça no Verão - A Square in Summer: José Neves, (Preface and Interview by André Tavares), Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisboa, 2017

NAMIAS, Olivier, Liége Festival, in Cree Architectures, nº384 / Hiver-2017, pp. 10-11

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