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Ponte de Lima Tourist Office, Portugal

The area of intervention covered by the study, although small in physical terms is relatively large if compared with the dimension of the Vila itself: in terms of the complexities which are the result of the successive transformations the Vila has undergone over time, it is truly a place full of history.

It is these transformations, and the memories they hold in a simple reading of the space, a scholarly study of the Vila’s origins, or in the memories of the inhabitants, which gives the Vila its unique character. This is how the spirit of a place is defined.

Without knowing how to understand and interpret this spirit, the intervention could be condemned to failure, through the arrogance of robbing it of its soul, or through the timidity of not being able to touch it. The redesign of the Largo Dr. António Magalhães, the first area of intervention, generated corrolations which imply and motivate the search for other areas and elements nearby which become fundamental in the sense of establishing new perspectives.

The reformulation of its geometry has the objective of reconstituting a formal and spacial unit similar to that which can be seen in historic documents and which has been lost in the meantime, as means of transport changed and spaces for pedestrians gave way to the car.

It is for this reason that the design is simplified to create more generous pedestrian spaces, capable of permitting the pedestrian to have a relationship with the urban forms which is less conditioned, orientating the pedestrian, by means of routes, towards the more significant architectural and environmental elements. This is because the possibility of bringing together various urban “moments” is evident, turning the spacial experience of the Vila itself and its relationship with the river more fluid, richer and more diversified.

The essence of the intervention passes through this new route which links the Largo António Magalhães (lowland) with the Largo da Lapa (higher land), as it is with this route that it is intended to make public a space, which until now has always been residential, without any kind of use and without any sort of relationship with the buildings it supports. This is a restitution of a unit which was lost with the chopping up of the area into lots which took place without any articulation and without any effort to relate it with the surrounding space.

The movement suggested by its development defines new frameworks and perspectives, not only in relation to the existing buildings but also in the way it transforms this crevice into a spacial unit capable of supporting these same buildings.

The building destined to be the Tourism Building is established in direct relation to this route, its shape being determined by it. The wall which currently faces Rua Cândido da Cruz is drawn back in order that, by reorganising the space, the entrance to the higher land of this same route is also one of the new entrances to this new building.

The shape of the building is essentially a topographical device which allows the relationship between different levels of land, the articulation of different levels, modelling the land to establish perspectives, interwoven paths and new points of view. The superior body is autonomous of topographical support, looking for more distant horizons – a simple window over the Vila and the river.

"Architecture is the will of an era conceived in spacial terms. Neither the past or the future, only today can be pinpointed. Only in this way can architecture be realised. To create the shape with the essence of the problem and the means of our own era, this is our task.” Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, 1927



Ponte de Lima City Hall
Completion date: 
Ponte de Lima


Type of building: 
Office buildings
Public square, park
Copper used: 


Name, office: 
Joao Alvaro Rocha - Arquitectos, Lda
Address & description: 
Rua Prof Carolina Freitas S C No 32 4470-180 Maia Portugal



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