Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Campus of Justice in Lisbon, Portugal by Frederico Valsassina Arquitectos
July 28th, 2011 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Frederico Valsassina
Oporto, and its people, express themselves visually in architecture, the architecture of the city, plastic synthesis of the local culture, where the architectural events are the events of the city and its people. Bearing in mind that, with time, Oporto as acquired the expression of a continental type european city in an country of mediterranean expression and culture. The colour and the main characteristics of the building materials of the city, the absorption form of the light and reflexes, the rhythm and the layout of the street plans, the proportion pattern in the openings on the facades, all brings closer the image of the city to the urban agglomerations of the Northern European countries more than Lisbon, the south or the Mediterranean capitals.
The decision taken on the context of the Judicial Modernization Program, of creating Oporto’s Justice Campus congregating in one place of the city the services spread out in 46 buildings, intends in first place to fully respond to the conservation and functionality conditions which are now totally inadequate.
The created expectation is that new facilities will present themselves duly dimensioned and with its own functional conditions for the exercise of the functions within, obeying to high security standards. The goal is to obtain spaces to exercise justice with functionality and urban quality, higher productivity rates as a result of a faster communication, better working conditions and improved user conditions.
The importance of such an undertaking, not only as a fundamental piece of a State of Law, but also by the congregation of a considerable amount of services and jobs, generates by itself a new dynamics and a new centrality in the context of the city.
Beyond merely functional issues associated with it, the creation of a new urban fact and the social appropriation of an uncharacteristic place and residual by the way as the city’s urban evolution has progressed, generates a polarity-inducing attraction, focusing not only those seeking the services available, but also those who work there and that remain for a considerable period of the day.
On the opposite, the invention of a new centrality inside the “canonic city” representing a reference, should play a structuring role, further than of its iconic ambitions, resuming routes, providing activity and humanization.
Assuming itself as a new centrality or as an “anchor project”, it’s intended that the new Campus is also capable of contaminating in a positive way and of interaction with the surroundings, attracting new activities subsidiary from those that will be installed.
The position of the Justice Campus corresponds finally to an opportunity of “darning” the urban mesh, being, once more, a way to make “city”, further more extending Oporto’s tradition.
The interdependence of the proposed functional valences in the Justice Campus’ program and of its buildings, establishes a “kinship” between each other from the beginning, grouping them and differencing it from all its surroundings. That’s why it was initially chosen a dense form, polyhedral, matrix that generates all spaces – interior and exterior.
The matrix element has created a fine line between interior and exterior realities, not rejecting the relation with its surroundings and, specially, with the most interesting preexistences (Quinta de St. António Palace and Ribeira de Vilar’s affluent), giving space to a transition area (a ring) where the different approximation systems to the Campus will occur.
Starting from this large mass, the public spaces inside this enclosure were literally obtained by subtraction, excavated from the main volume, giving place, in the created hollow, to the paths, to the leisure spaces and… to the essential articulation piece of the set – the Main Plaza.
The access to the Campus from the exterior is made through openings on the surrounding “skin” of the ensemble, that acquire different sizes according to its location and relative importance on the hierarchy of spaces created that way.
The analogy with the walled city, its doors and shutters is here intentional. The inside path drawn from west to east, is assumed contemporaneously as a trace of a Decumanus Maximus that starts on Rua Barão de Forrester to end on the Quinta de St. António Palace; the water line of the River Vilar affluent is no more than a pre-existent Cardus in order to appear a modern like roman Forum or a greek Agora in its crossing but, as always, a place for the incorporation of the city and for the exercise of citizenship. As such, nothing seems more proper to the solemnity of the foundation act of a Justice Campus.
The operative resource of a regulatory design was on the base of the “large hexagon” plant layout which conforms the Campus as an expression of an ”architecture of the city”, by opposition to a self-centered model of “building-object” oblivious and indifferent to the surrounding reality.
Notwithstanding the “straight edges” and the polyhedral exterior form of the Campus ensemble, the fragmentation of the block in independent buildings puts us by chance closer to the medieval “bastides” than to the Koolhas’ House of Music.
The dialectical relationship established with the space progression between the “inside” heart of the Campus (to which every main accesses turn to) and the generalist city, is made with total permeability once there are no real stopping barriers. This practical relation and the interaction of the subjects with the Campus interior space and with its surroundings is therefore made with total freedom.
A matter that passes all dimensions of the project has to do with the manipulation of the construction scales and of the interstitial empty spaces, adjustment not only to the established conceptual assumptions, but also the specifications to the Competition Rules and to the constraints of Oporto’s City Masterplan.
The pronounced variation of heights registered on the perimeter of the intervention area has determined that the Main Plaza, besides being a passage space, of relation, meeting and symbolic representation of the judicial power under the democratic institutions, should be a common platform (at a height of 100.00) that unifies and solves by itself the gaps between the interior of the Campus and the outside streets.
Instead seeking to mitigate these gaps, the systems approach to the Campus takes advantage of it by the way of how the perception and the appropriation of buildings and of the surrounding public space will occur.
A combination of ramps and staircases in association with perspective and counter-perspective effects was created, not compromising the access to reduced mobility people, creating a path’s hierarchy and introducing a controlled ambiguity on the reading of the Main Plaza through the exterior,
Not being unprecedented in Painting and in Architecture, the manipulation of perspective, in order to limit the way reality is perceived, it is accentuated, in this case, by the way the building façades are leaned toward each other in the “doors” section, reducing the visible “amount of sky” in favor of the “ground surface”.
Contact Frederico Valsassina Arquitectos