Serralves Foundation 
Museum of Contemporary Art
Álvaro Siza

March 11, 2000 /

Porto, Portugal

Photo: arcspace

Serralves Museum, the first large-scale contemporary art museum in Portugal, is located in the Quinta de Serralves; a large property close to the center of Porto that includes a main house built in the 1930's for the Count of Vizela.

The landscaped gardens designed by Siza, on the approximately 3 ha of land, preserved the most important species already existing on the site. The public access to the Museum's ground is made at the highest level of the terrain through an opening in the existing wall that surrounds the property.

Photo: arcspace

The main gate gives access to a patio where the staircase and elevator coming from the subterranean car park and the paths coming from the different gardens also converge.

The Serralves Museum is superb without heroics, dazzling with a supple curve to the auditorium roof, a projecting shadow-casting fin, a window strip inserted just so, a perfect rail, stone and tile finishes impeccably applied./Michael Sorkin

Photo: arcspace

From the patio you pass down a long, covered walkway, pass a small ticket pavilion and an walled-in garden, to finally arrive at the main entrance to the museum and, through an independent entrance, the auditorium foyer.

A longitudinal axis, set in an approximately North/South direction, takes the direction of the pre-existing paths of the vegetable garden. The two asymmetrical wings of the main body are generated southward; creating a courtyard between them. Another garden, by the public access to the building, is generated between the L-shaped volume set to the North and the central body.

Photo: arcspace

The volume of the building is defined by vertical surfaces covered with stone or stucco; the top of these walks keep a constant level, while the bottom accompanies the variations of the changing ground (the variation in ground level is approximately 9 meters, which corresponds to a slope of 5,3% descending from North to South).

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The reception and information desk is placed next to the Museum entrance leading to a square double height atrium with a skylight roof. This atrium is centered on the longitudinal and transversal axes that define the building.

Besides functioning as the geometrical generator and centre of the building, this main hall constitutes a distribution space from which the public may have access to the different Museum facilities. Internal courtyards and numerous windows permit the visitor to remain in contact with the surrounding landscaped park.

Suspended from the ceilings in several of the galleries are what looks like upside down tables concealing the skylights, air-conditioning equipment and artificial lighting. Natural light pours over the sides, to wash the surrounding walls, and is supplemented by artificial lighting as needed.

Photo: arcspace

The passage to the upper floor is made through stairs and elevators, giving access to a Galleria over the main hall. From here the public can walk to the Cafeteria, which has a dining room for 80 people and an Esplanade overlooking the Park where meals can also be served.

From the main hall the public also has access to the Library foyer. This room is at the level of the terrain, prolonging itself to the exterior through a garden. Divided into two floors, the Library is specialized in art-related subjects. It comprises a traditional reading-room, a deposit room, personal computers and video screens.

Photo: arcspace

Photo: arcspace

The Auditorium can function autonomously, should the rest of the Museum be closed to the public. It has an independent entrance and the necessary public facilities. It is a multipurpose room, prepared for performances of music, dancing, acting, lectures and conferences (with the possibility of simultaneous translation), and the projection of cinema and video. It seats approximately 290 spectators. The Book Shop and Gift Shop on the entrance level can also be entered from the central courtyard.

Drawing courtesy Álvaro SizaPlan
Drawing courtesy Álvaro SizaLongitudinal Sectionserralves_museum_13.gif
Drawing courtesy Álvaro SizaCross Section

Facts about Serralves Foundation 
Museum of Contemporary Art

Total area:

15,000 m2


Álvaro Siza


Global - João Gomes da Silva & Erika Skabar


Serralves Foundation

Last updated: May 26, 2014

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