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Coimbra, Portugal

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Refurbishment of the Tropical Greenhouses in the Botanic Garden of Coimbra University

João Mendes Ribeiro, arquitecto

FAD Awards finalist 2018  Interior Design
Description Technical file

The Jury’s appraisal:The refurbishment of heritage buildings has become a central issue in Portuguese architecture. The project for this Tropical greenhouse by Joao Mendes Ribeiro clarifies the original project and uses a delicate design to introduce new elements. The result is highly delicate and subtle.

The Tropical Greenhouses are located in the city of Coimbra and form part of the University’s Botanic Garden, which was built in 1772 at the initiative of the Marquis of Pombal and occupies part of the old estate of Sao Bento college, covering a 13-hectare area. Over time the Garden has undergone successive interventions to adapt it to the topography, giving rise to numerous earth-retaining walls. As with the garden, the design of the greenhouses also underwent many changes until their completion in 1859.

The intervention on the greenhouse space entailed the restoration and recovery of the existing structures as well as the implementation of technical solutions that would ensure, on one hand, the appropriate ambient conditions for the plants’ development and, on the other, the building’s accessibility and enjoyment.

The central wing, given its spatial configuration, constitutes a unique greenhouse space and a gallery on the upper level, with a strong scenographic slope. The new gallery is materially radically different, characterised by a metallic lightweight structure more in keeping with the language and construction of the greenhouse, though referenced in the existing balcony, whose construction in concrete elements dates from the late 20th century. Access to the upper gallery is via two spiral staircases above the central pond. This piece, which occupies the space of the old planters and is intended for growing Victoria amazonica, is clad in black-painted sheet steel to emphasise the surface reflected in the sheet of water and the verticality of the space.

To reinforce the building’s geometric composition, it was proposed to open up a door in its north façade. During the works, the existence was confirmed of a previous span in this same spot. In the previous spans, the wooden doors have been replaced with iron and glass frames to ensure visual continuity between all the rooms. The floor was equalised with the application of ties in Ataíja stone in a uniform stereotomy closely associated with the building’s structure. In the inner and outer walls, the cladding was reconstituted with lime-based render incorporating pigment in order to maintain the natural permeability of the walls.

It is important to consider the reestablishment of transparency between the greenhouse interior and exterior through the shifts in the walls and roof and the application of translucent glass and interior shading screens. This solution brings back a system in use in the early 20th century and leads to a radical change in the greenhouse image, which adopts a different configuration depending on the position of the screens throughout the year’s different climatic seasons.



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Localización Location: Coimbra, Portugal. Autor Author: João Mendes Ribeiro, arquitecto. Equipo Team: Ana Cerqueira, Catarina Fortuna (coord. proyecto). Filipe Catarino (coord. obra). Ana Maria Feijão, Inês Lourenço, Joana Brandão, Joana Figueiredo, Nuno Alves Pereira, Sofia Rangel. Estructuras Structures: Afonso Serra Neves, Jorge Augusto de Jesus Martins, Vitor Silva. Ingeniería instalaciones hidráulicas Hydraulic installations engineering: Rossana Pereira | GEPECTROFA. Ingeniería instalaciones eléctricas Electrical Installations engineering: Alexandre Ferreira Martins | GPIC. Ingeniería instalaciones mecánicas Mechanical Installations engineering: Raul Bessa, Miguel Alves | GET. Seguridad e incendios Safety and fire: Alexandre Ferreira Martins | GPIC. Promotor Developer: Universidade de Coimbra. Constructora General Contractor: Tecnorém - Engenharia e Construções, S.A. Superficie Area: 1.353m². Ejecución Completion: 2016. Fotografía Photography: José Campos - fotografia de arquitectura
Contact
Joao Mendes Ribeiro
3000-401 Coimbra, Portugal
Photography
José Campos