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Portugal | Nadir Afonso Art Center

Place: Boticas, Country: Portugal
Client: Camara Municipal de Boticas
Architectural design:
Louise Braverman architect
16 E 79th Street, New York
http://www.louisebravermanarchitect.com/
Local architect: Paulo Periera Almeida
Images courtesy of Louise Braverman architect
Photos © FG+SG architectural photography

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Between Urban and Pastoral: Nadir Afonso Art Center by Louise Braverman

The Nadir Afonso art center in Boticas, Portugal, designed by New York-based architect Louise Braverman, is a very good example of how architecture does not need to be “extreme” to be extremely effective.

Nadir Afonso was a notable Portuguese abstract artist whose work has always been deeply linked to his interest for geometry. With an architectural background – he practiced with Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemayer – Afonso developed an “objective” approach to geometric art and a personal aesthetic theory based on the idea that “Art is a show of exactitude”.

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Few years ago the Boticas municipality decided to establish a 20,00 square-foot art center dedicated to Afonso, besides the already-existing Nadir Afonso Foundation designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira in the nearby town of Chaves. The new center eventually opened in Spring 2014.

Taking the cue from Afonso’s work, but also carefully tuning her design approach to the peculiarity of the site where the center lies in, the architecture conceived by Louise Braverman deploys an intense dynamic between apparently counterposed elements.

The Nadir Afonso Art Center is indeed located in a hilly suburban area on the edge between town and countryside. Braverman dealt with the site by creating a building, sliced into the hillside, composed of two distinct, yet interconnected parts, thus reflecting the innate dualism urban-pastoral of the site.

The Urban face is embodied into an overground two-story cultural center, aimed to the community in a broad sense and pointing, both physically and figuratively, toward the town. This wing houses a double-height lobby, a multipurpose space, an auditorium, a children library and a cafe with an outdoor terrace. A photomural and a band of sketches by the artist are placed here so to be visible from the outside, thus announcing the Afonso’s work to the approaching visitors.

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The Pastoral Side is expressed in a below-grade wing housing the main exhibition space and covered with a roof garden. The exhibition hall is encircled by stone-made retaining walls, separated from the interior space by a narrow open-air passageway. This solution provides both a direct sunlight regulation and a fascinating backdrop for the artworks displayed inside the hall.
The overlaying roof garden, which design has been inspired to Afonso’s geometric patterns, provides a charming gathering space and additionally contributes to sustainability, by reducing thermal dispersions through the building envelope.

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The entire center features a series of carbon footprint-reducing techniques, including natural shading though vegetation, adoption of recyclable building materials, rainwater and drainage control through both permeable surfaces and the green-roof, natural indirect illumination and low-consumption artificial lighting.

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Text by Riccardo Bianchini, inexhibit
Photos © FG+SG architectural photography
Drawings © Louise Braverman architect.




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