The dozen or so buildings that make up the Convento do Beato complex date from a number of different eras. They include the old church, what remains of the old convent and several buildings constructed mainly for industrial use in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The convent’s original cloister, chapter room, refectory, staircase and library have all survived and have been put to use as an Events Centre for a number of years now.
The project developed by RISCO, for Beato Lux, includes the remodelling of the Events Centre and the renovation/refurbishment of the remaining buildings for new uses, namely, services in the old church and housing in the old industrial buildings. The project also includes the construction of two car parks, one above ground and one underground, and various outdoor spaces.
Work began in 2018 and is scheduled for completion in 2024. In March 2022, work on the Events Centre was completed. This had focused on improving the comfort and safety of the thousands of people who come here each year for parties, corporate meetings and product launches.
There was a a more technical side to the refurbishment, involving the replacement of the telecommunications, energy and security systems, a restoration of the kitchen and changes to window and door spans and railings, etc.
And then there was the more creative side to the work, which centred on the design of the administrative building, the courtyards, the new sanitary facilities and certain special elements, such as the walkways for the library's emergency exits. These walkways perfectly express our approach to design, when we are faced with valuable architectural heritage. We strive to make the most of the visual contemporaneity of the new elements, whilst avoiding clashing contrasts with the existing architecture.
There were also the "surgical operations" that were required in the library, foyer, refectory and chapter room, to install the air-conditioning system, double the number of roof support trusses and alter window and door spans. For this kind of work, we tried to be as discreet as possible.
However, the most important transformation took place in the cloister, the space that hosts larger-scale events. Since the 1980s, this had been covered by a pyramid-shaped roof, covered with acrylic panels. This did not offer the smoke clearance or thermal and acoustic insulation required for this type of use. It also had no air-conditioning system, making it pretty uncomfortable on very hot days.
The design for the new ceiling resulted from a long process of technical and formal research, made necessary by the desire to ensure that it was structurally light, technically efficient and architecturally coherent with the cloister elevations.
The solution adopted consists of a system of orthogonally arranged trusses that form a set of "honeycombs" that are lit from above by skylights. The new skylights offer thermal and acoustic insulation from the outside and open mechanically in the event of fire. The "honeycombs" have been clad with highly efficient sound absorbent material, which has greatly increased interior comfort and sound quality. Air-conditioning ducts are built into the periphery of this structure.
The new ceiling respects and enhances the proportions of the cloister elevations, whilst also expressing a markedly contemporary language. The contrast between the vertical planes, of worked stone, and the ceiling, of smooth, white plaster, adds value to the space, introducing a complexity that did not exist before.
In this project, as in many others, we did not follow a single "recipe": in some spaces we hide the new technical installations, in others we accept them as elements that add to the composition as a whole. In some cases, our language is decidedly contemporary, in others we take a more conservative approach, by replicating the design of the old carpentry work, masonry and metalwork.
This was an extensive and complex job that required frequent and ongoing adaptations as the work progressed. When we look at the results of our labours, we find that we have managed to incorporate everything that is required to run a modern events centre and do so without disfiguring spaces that are quite remarkable for their architectural and heritage value. This was always the main aim of our work.