photos: Leonardo Finotti

Project Description


The Civic Centre in Custóias (Matosinhos) is built in Souto Square, a triangular space with bad construction, a central garden and imposing trees. The garden has been suffering through the years, as almost every old garden in Matosinhos has, constant and successive interventions and mutilations. It was even built a small building in it, the local public library. The Civic Centre was built to, amongst other things, replace this poor building. The library finally moved to the new building but the old one still remains between the trees in the garden.
The Civic Centre is located on the plot, after lots of failed experimentation, only on the compliment of municipal plans and regulations, wich are, in panic situations, a relief...
With a square plan, the side dimensions is the maximum depth allowed by the City Hall in urban construction, 17.6m. The height and alignement of the Civic Centre with the existing buildings is also dictated by the same plans and regulations wich establish a moving back from the actual building front to widen the road section in a long term basis.


The Civic Centre of Custóias concentrates two valences in the same building. Cultural and Social. It intends, through a multimedia zone in the first floor and a leisure zone in the ground floor, to foment contact between generations.


The Project went after formal abstraction. It tried to insert in the chaotic city mesh an exception object, one that could, through it’s plasticity, produce a big contrast with the surroundings. The compact volume, almost a perfect cube, allowed articulation ‘games’ between elements that defined the building plastic composition without loosing it’s unicity. (sketch1)
 Sketch 1

Colour had a determining part and its definition was influenced by Mark Rothko’s paintings. There were used chromatic gradations in grey scale on the outside and colour gradations on the inside. (Painting 1, Painting 2, Façade (black and White) and Section (colour))
A third chromatic element was used in the interior metal stairs to create contrast with the walls. Colour had the capacity of introducing different environments in the building, and the gradations, as a cinematic element, to provoke movement and dynamic effects that deducted “visual weight” to the building and its interior spaces.

Painting 1_Rothko Untitled 1961


Painting 2_Rothko Orange and Yellow



The construction materials were chosen according to their ability to create uniform spaces and deduct detail and visual elements to the building. The exterior walls finishings are smoth as the apparent concrete beams, the windows are glued glass in stainless steel, custom made, which makes the frames disappear on the outside. Interior doors are made with the same plasterboard used in the walls and the floors have a concrete floor leveller that combines with the concrete ceiling.

Location: Matosinhos, Portugal

Project date: 2002-2004
Construction date: 2004-2006
Promotor: Matosinhos City Hall
Architecture: Guilherme Machado Vaz
Graphic Design: Ezzo Design
Structural Engineering: José Basto Lino (Newton, Consultores de Engenharia, Lda.)
Electric Engineering: Alexandre Martins (GPIC)
Mechanical Engineering: Raul Bessa (GET)
Hidraulic Engineering: Fernanda Valente
Constructor: Domingos Carvalho, s.a.
Area: 760m2
Nº of floors: 2 + basement
Cost: 600.000,00 euros
courtesy of Guilherme Machado Vaz

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