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Garducho Biological Centre by Ventura Trindade Arquitectos, Mourão, Portugal

An enigmatic white bar hovering above the remote landscape contains a biological research centre and exhibition space. Photography by André Carvalho and José Manuel Silva

This long white bar hovering enigmatically just above the landscape is actually a biological research station. It lies in the Mourão region in south-east Portugal, near the border with Spain. Mourão may be one of the most economically depressed areas in Europe, but what it lacks in economic growth and development it more than makes up for with its rich and diverse natural life.

The area around the Guadiana river is designated as a Special Protection Area and forms part of the European Natura 2000 Network. It is a haven for rare bird life (bustards, eagles and cranes) and is home to the Iberian lynx, currently high on the endangered-species list.

Set on an isolated site, the Garducho Biological Station has the dual function of undertaking research into the area’s diverse natural heritage and promoting this to the public.

Designed by Lisbon-based Ventura Trindade, the centre combines a research lab and exhibition space, together with a residential component. These three building parts act as support for an enveloping wall (the distinctive white bar), which contains an elevated walkway. The suspension allows the ground below to be preserved and remain permeable. From the elevated walkway, visitors can survey the surrounding landscape. A network of patios, pools and courtyards link the various spaces and Portuguese artist Fernanda Fragateiro was involved in designing the exhibition displays.

Due to the remoteness of the site, the building must be largely self sufficient, prompting a shrewd approach to materials and services. Power is supplied via a system of photovoltaic panels and rainwater is collected in a tank and reused. Panels of black cork, made from the remains discarded by the cork industry, are used for insulation, while recycled timber from dismantled railway lines was scavenged to clad the balconies and terraces.

Architect Ventura Trindade Arquitectos, Lisbon, Portugal
Structural engineer PRPC

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