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Stations of life: Rosmaninho + Azevedo, Portugal

The twin counter pointing structures of Rosmaninho + Azevedo’s interpretation centre in Portugal’s Tua Valley draw on the form of provincial station buildings

Rosmaninho + Azevedo have been shortlisted for the AR Emerging Architecture awards 2018

Susana Rosmaninho and Pedro Azevedo are two young Porto-based designers who specialise in the architecture of cultural memory. After qualifying as architects, Azevedo went into practice while Rosmaninho studied for a masters in museology, and worked thereafter as a curatorial assistant on the Guimarães 2012 European Capital of Culture programme. Their first project together was the competition-winning entry for an interpretation centre for the Tua Valley. This location, part of the Douro Valley wine-producing region in northern Portugal, is known for its ancient vineyards and great natural beauty. A historic narrow-gauge railway that trundled alongside the river was regarded as one of the most picturesque routes in the world. On a more discordant note, the valley is also famous for its extremely controversial dam, completed in 2017 to the outrage of local business and activists. 

Rosmaninho + azevedo site drawings

Rosmaninho + azevedo site drawings

Working in this political context, the architects had to proceed ‘very delicately’, as they put it. Their task was partly to pour oil on troubled waters by providing a facility to ‘demonstrate the connection between the territory and its people, fauna and flora, the railroad and the dam’, in the words of the regional development agency. The site chosen for the centre was a railway station at the mouth of the river, doubly sensitive since the historic onward route had been submerged beneath the waters.

The two buildings of the interpretation centre borrow the modest form of provincial station buildings, one on either side of the line. These twin structures are otherwise as dissimilar as could be: the first, a venue for permanent and temporary exhibitions, is clad in sharply detailed tin, while the other is an adapted historic building in more traditional clapboard. The latter will function as a visitor centre for arriving tourists. The centre received the Jury’s Special Award of the Archizinc Trophy earlier this year. 

Rosmaninho + azevedo drawings

Rosmaninho + azevedo drawings

Click to download

The architects are currently working on a second project – Aristides de Sousa Mendes House – in the central region of Portugal. This now-ruinous building was the former home of a famous diplomat who, while consul-general in Bordeaux during the Second World War, defied the orders of prime minister António de Oliveira Salazar by issuing a huge number of visas to Jews fleeing occupied France. Sousa Mendes thereby saved many lives, but he was suspended from the service as a result and forced to relinquish his assets. After his death his house fell into severe disrepair, but it is now being developed as a museum dedicated to the memory of its former owner and the people he saved.

Architect: Rosmaninho + Azevedo

Photographs: Luis Ferreira Alves

This piece is featured in AR November issue on Emerging Architecture and the Netherlands – click here to purchase your copy today

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