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Competition: Tagus River site memorial, Lisbon

An open international ideas contest has been launched for riverside visitor centre and viewing point in Lisbon, Portugal (Deadline: 17 September)

Open to students and young architects under 40 years old, the single-stage competition seeks sensitive proposals for a new ‘site memorial’ pavilion on the banks of the River Tagus close to the Portuguese capital’s iconic 25 de Abril Bridge.

The call for ideas focuses on the creation of a new landmark which draws together the city’s many monuments and its dramatic landscape to deliver a thoughtful place for visitors. Proposals should include a history room, toilets, a storage area, and a resting spot or look-out point.

Contest site in Lisbon, Portugal

Contest site in Lisbon, Portugal

Contest site in Lisbon, Portugal

According to the brief: ‘Lisbon has a number of significant landmarks and it is a place of great cultural heritage and historical significance. Monuments, memory and history rise from the ground and together with the Tagus River are notable features within this setting.

‘The Site Memorial, located in Lisbon, is a new landmark and a destination point inviting visitors for a unique and singular experience between the land and the water; it is a contemplative walk through history that leads to a place of gathering and a look-out point where the Tagus River becomes a powerful scenery. There are no limitations in height, depth or extension beyond the river bank.’

Located on the western Iberian Peninsula where the Atlantic Ocean meets the River Tagus, Lisbon of the capital city of Portugal and the country’s largest settlement with around 550,000 inhabitants. In 1755 the city’s waterfront was the site of a tragedy where residents fleeing destruction from an earthquake were struck by a devastating tsunami wave.

Contest site in Lisbon, Portugal

Contest site in Lisbon, Portugal

Contest site in Lisbon, Portugal

The competition focuses on the creation of a visitor destination where people can engage with the area’s history, topography and river. Proposals should include a 45m history room, 20m toilets, 15m storage space and an outdoor look-out point.

Proposals may be of any size of height but must respect the surrounding context and be designed to age without maintenance. Concepts will be judged on their originality, response to the brief, appropriateness to the site, and quality of presentation.

Judges include Mexican architect Taller Héctor Barroso and Jan Henrik Jansen of Jan Henrik Jansen Architects in Copenhagen. The overall winner will receive a €2,000 prize while a second prize of €1,000 and third prize of €500 will also be awarded.

How to apply

Deadline

The registration deadline is 17 September and submissions must be completed by 22 September.

Fee

Early registration from 30 April to 29 June: €60
Regular registration from 30 June to 31 August: €75
Late registration from 1 September to 17 September: €90

Contact details

Email: info@arkxsite.com

Visit the competition website for more information

Pitlochry dam visitor centre case study: Q&A with Craig Steven

The director at bsp architects discusses lessons learned designing a new visitor centre for Scottish and Southern Energy (SEE) at Pitlochry dam in Scotland

How did your project create a new landmark visitor centre for Pitlochry dam?

The new Visitor Centre location was chosen to take advantage of the manmade and natural surroundings and is situated to the north of the River Tummel, on the brow of the hill overlooking the existing category A Listed Port-Na-Craig Hydroelectric dam. The idea was to create a building that replaces the existing visitor centre (housed in the existing dam complex, which has become outmoded and outdated), creates interest in the area and informs the public about the history, present, and future of the dam. The siting of the building allows views up and down the River Tummel, of the dam, and Loch Faskally. It has been designed to defer to the size and scale of the existing dam, whilst creating a new more visitor-friendly space to learn and enjoy.

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects

Source: Image by Fraser Band

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

There are three elements to the design; a smaller form extending out of the main façade to create the entrance and house ancillary spaces; the main rectangular envelope which sits on the landscape and then appears to ‘hover’ above the river bank; the lower level which being glazed helps it to ‘disappear’ into the landscape to accentuate the volume above cantilevering out. The entrance to the building is deliberately low-key, hiding what is to come inside when the building opens out horizontally and vertically towards the river.

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects

Source: Image by bsp architects

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects

Underneath the building, there are four metres of concrete box which is filled with hard-core to ensure the building is physically connected to the material deep in the hillside providing a secure footing and providing a strong foundation for the cantilever. Although the building juts out a fair bit we wanted to ensure it blends in with its surroundings and that it defers to the size and scale of the existing dam. To assist with this, we have used three different textures of the same concrete panel material which gives it a subtle variation in the same colour to the exterior cladding, with the trees helping to frame it in the landscape.

The external covered space at the end of the building facing the dam, will allow visitors to view the dam from the dramatic eight-metre cantilever which juts out over the river bank, along with the setting it enjoys. Two learning rooms along with the exhibition space on the lower ground level will be a source of interest for those wishing to learn more about hydroelectric power. A cafe and retail space are housed on the main ground level. Known affectionately in the office as ‘the view tube’, the aspects out to the dam have been controlled deliberately until they can be experienced at the end of the building, which frames the dam. You are enticed through the building which slowly reveals the outlooks but it is not until you reach the café and then viewing balcony that you are hit by the full effect of the vistas. It is a unique point to view the dam, hitherto unrealised due to being a point in space above the landscape.

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects

Source: Image by Fraser Band

Pitlochry dam visitor centre by bsp architects