Location: CALHETA, MADEIRA, Portugal.

Architect: Paulo David Arquitecto.

The Art Center – Casa das Mudas – by the Portuguese architect Paulo David, is a sign in the panorama of Calheta (Madeira), strategically located on the top of the cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Calheta is a very extensive district on the west coast of the island of Madeira. It is located in the middle of the deepest point of the valley and is surrounded by high mountains. The basic idea of the project aims at the rearrangement of the mountain and in which the building can behave simply as a topographical sign. The final result is a large set of sculpted volumes, formed by an abstract geometry, in which the intervention merges with nature. The relationship between the old house, Casa das Mudas, and its surroundings, formed by terraces, a typical agricultural solution of Madeira, reveals a humanized landscape, which we wanted to recreate in the project as a “memory” of the traditional rural landscape of Madeira.The solution what has been achieved is the leveling of the mountain, through a large complex platform at the top which contrasts with the different topographic levels. The structure is developed along a north-south longitudinal axis and its extensions follow the topographical building limits. This buried and sculpted nucleus leads to a sort of “underground experience”; the outdoor spaces, removed from the original conceptual core, are characterized by the texture and color of the flooring, which reflect the particular light of the island. The main access is obtained through a large ramp that leads to a square patio, the fulcrum around which , at the top, all the independent functions are distributed, but all connected in the lower levels. This fragmented functional distribution, which aims at a better independent management of each module within the complex building, however leaves room for a more flexible arrangement of the paths that cross the exhibition areas. The latter are divided into three separate rooms on two levels with different altimetric proportions. Bookshop – This environment is in direct contact with the main patio, but at the same time it is independent from the Arts Centre; it is found at the beginning and at the end of the exhibition itinerary. Workshop Rooms – These are physically connected to the exhibition halls, leaving the possibility of using them for future interactive and pedagogical activities of the Centre. The Library – The Library is divided into three open levels , also developed as “terraces”: the traditional reading rooms, the multimedia compartments, the private rooms, the book and newspaper deposits and the periodicals room are scattered over the various terraces; the access to the roof constitutes the final terrace, “the belvedere” of the Centre.Auditorium – The Auditorium has 238 seats, and is designed for multiple functions, such as for contemporary dance, theatre, concerts and conferences, with installations and equipment suitable for the projection of films, videos and simultaneous translations. The dressing rooms are located on the lowest level. Restaurant – The restaurant is at one of the apex of the complex, and like all the other functions of the Centre, it operates autonomously and has free public access. It seats 48 indoors, plus another 48 on the terrace with a view of the ocean and the center of Calheta. Administrative services – The administrative services are in the old Casa das Mudas on the upper floor. A stairway access has been created to access the underground parking area and the main Patio. Materials- The Center was built in black basalt stone, to approach and integrate into the volcanic nature of the landscape. Being a local and abundant material, its color and texture give the building continuity with the landscape, thus enhancing the landscape and its nature.

Photo credit: Fernando Guerra.