Square and Tourist Office: Emerging finalist in Mies van der Rohe Awards 2024
Frederico Martinho

Square and Tourist Office: Emerging finalist in Mies van der Rohe Awards 2024

15 Mar 2024  •  News  •  By Gerard McGuickin

In this Archello series, we look at each of the seven nominated projects (five architecture finalists and two emerging finalists) in the Mies van der Rohe Awards 2024. 

 

Square and Tourist Office

photo_credit do mal o menos
do mal o menos

João Branco and Paula del Río of Portuguese architectural studio Branco Del Rio have rehabilitated and reconfigured a square and tourist office/visitor center in Piódão, a village in central Portugal’s Serra do Açor. The only flat and open area in the picturesque village with its traditional schist houses and steep, narrow streets, the square had been used as a car park. It has now been reclaimed and returned to the community, providing a vibrant gathering place and welcoming tourist office.

photo_credit Branco Del Rio
Branco Del Rio
photo_credit do mal o menos
do mal o menos

Cónego Manuel Fernandes Nogueira square, located at the lower part of Piódão, serves as the main access route to the village. Consequently, over the years, this space had been increasingly used as a car park. Freeing the space of cars and obstacles, Branco Del Rio made use of local materials and construction techniques to rehabilitate and redesign the square and tourist office. The result is a “feeling that nothing was done,” says the studio — it’s as though the place has always been this way.

photo_credit Branco Del Rio
Branco Del Rio
photo_credit Frederico Martinho
Frederico Martinho

A grid of indigenous cherry trees at the entrance to the square now alters the sequence of arrival. A “vegetal filter”, it removes the square from the road and prevents access to cars. The square is newly paved in schist — following a tradition mastered by local builders, this coarse-grained metamorphic rock pavement is in keeping with the character of the village. To reinforce the pedestrian nature of the square and ensure accessibility for all, there are no curbs (kerbs) or uneven surfaces. “The formal complexity of the space, which lacks directionality, is approached with the introduction of a large central circle at the axis of the church,” says Branco Del Rio. The church and its stone foundation, houses, cafes, and tourist office now align with the square’s new centrality. 

photo_credit Branco Del Rio
Branco Del Rio
photo_credit Frederico Martinho
Frederico Martinho

The rehabilitation of the tourist office included cleaning and clarifying its interior and exterior, removing any unnecessary elements and additions. Branco Del Rio added a new canopy that provides shade at the front of the building. Similar to roofs in the village, the canopy roof is made using a traditional structure of wooden beams and slate tiles; it is supported on metal columns and contributes to a unitary whole.

photo_credit Branco Del Rio
Branco Del Rio
photo_credit Frederico Martinho
Frederico Martinho
photo_credit do mal o menos
do mal o menos

Branco Del Rio’s approach to the project is quiet and restrained — it is difficult to know what is actually new versus old. It creates a connection between the sustainability of culture and materiality in a rural part of Portugal.

photo_credit Frederico Martinho
Frederico Martinho

 

EUmies Awards

The Square and Tourist Office is a finalist in the 2024 edition of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture — Mies van der Rohe Awards (EUmies Awards). There are seven nominated projects in total: five architecture finalists and two emerging finalists.

The EUmies Awards program was founded in 1988 by Fundació Mies van der Rohe and the European Union. Winners will be announced on 25 April 2024.