The museum of the city of Santo Tirso was in need of an extension; the architects Alvaro Siza Vieira and Eduardo Souto de Moura teamed up to design it. As a result, a new wing that focuses attention on the existing museum buildings but not on itself has been created by the two proponents of Portuguese Modernism.
Client: Stadt Santo Tirso
Architect: Alvaro Siza Vieira, Eduardo Souto de Moura
Location: 373, P–4780 Santo Tirso
The existing Museum Abade Pedrosa and the new wing for contemporary sculpture converge at a sole point in the design by the Pritzker Prize-winning architects. Indeed, the extension takes a circumspect approach in general to the old monastery complex that houses the museum, for example by not rising higher at any one point than its ornate cornice. Instead, the new wing has been built into the ground, letting the monastery remain the key feature of the neighbourhood despite the size of the intervention. The long and slender building has been placed diagonally across the almost rectangular monastery forecourt available for its insertion, leaving a triangular space on the street side that receives – indeed welcomes – visitors. The gaze follows the white façade of the extension until it reaches the entrance at the corner, an effect underscored by the slope of the ground paved in pale natural stone. The base course of the new building is in the same material, forming a gentle contrast to the white rendering chosen in homage to the colouring of the monastery. The roof of the extension is clearly visible from some of the hills overlooking the city, and thanks to its reddish-orange tiling merges in with the surrounding buildings when seen from a higher vantage point. The architects have managed – as so often in the past – to carefully adapt the size and form of the new building to its context without denying its character as a 'foreign body' in the historical surroundings. Although its appearance is solely aligned to supporting the architectural characteristics of the monastery, the extension avoids all ingratiation. The interior of the sculpture extension holds no surprises in terms of innovations either, being characterised – like the exterior – by the clear and restrained form language for which the two architects are known. The lower third of the white rendered walls is clad in white marble – a choice that expresses Siza's and Souto's preference for working with regional materials – and the same marble has been used on all the floors as well as the stairs and the bar in the cafeteria. The pale colours used throughout accentuate the furnishings and show the exhibits to best advantage. Observant visitors will also notice many special details in the interior. In particular the interstices between individual elements have been planned and executed with ingenuity and finesse.