School of Music
Carrilho da Graça arquitectos

March 19, 2012 /

Lisbon, Portugal

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Text by João Luís Carrilho da Graça.

When I first started working on this project I happened to be visiting Eero Saarinen's School of Music in Ann Harbor. Even though the building is interesting, it struck me as odd that no music could be heard in the passageways, not even in the common spaces.At about the same time I watched a documentary about the Music Conservatory in Santiago de Cuba, it was an old colonial house filled with people, joy and music. For this project, I wanted to push to the limits the possibility of acoustic excellence - and also the seclusion and soundproofing of every space - as well as convey the conviviality and extroversion particular to certain musical practices.

As for the inside/outside relationship and air-conditioning, I also wanted to achieve the equilibrium, or get the best of both worlds: opening towards the outside and, as an alternative, a mechanical and sophisticated acclimatization of each space.

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

The urban struggle for central and accessible sites results in many schools, even music schools, clinics and hospitals being located in very noisy areas such as this. It is a vibrant area with a certain "suburban centrality".

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

The clearest statement of this project was the creation of an exterior space - a large patio covered with grass - formed by a volume that gradually increases in height and protects it from the exterior noise.

As the top of the building gently slopes upwards, the rooms grow successively higher, from smaller classrooms meant for instruments that produce a weaker sound (the flute, for instance), to larger rooms meant for percussion instruments. The outside of the school is an almost blind volume, except for the corners, where large glass surfaces make the view explode on the inside. But not the sound.

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

All the public spaces and larger rooms were built in the lower floors. The Auditorium is the main space of the building, with a seating capacity of 448 people. Though it is mainly a teaching space, it should be prepared to host musical performances of the highest level, and thus its acoustic requirements are very demanding. Is form is a wooden shell.

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

In addition to the teaching spaces, there are a variety of rooms with different dimensions and another (smaller) auditorium. The great "loggia" that surrounds them serves as a spare space for future extensions to the school. The library, cafeteria, office area and staff rooms occupy the southern part of this floor.

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Photo © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Using concrete as our main building material was a simple way of obtaining high levels of acoustic stability and insulation. Silence. The floor in the rooms is made out of wood. It vibrates.

Drawing courtesy Carrilho da Graça arquitectosSite Plan
Drawing courtesy Carrilho da Graça arquitectosPlan Level 0
Drawing courtesy Carrilho da Graça arquitectosPlan Level 1
Drawing courtesy Carrilho da Graça arquitectosSection

Drawing courtesy Carrilho da Graça arquitectosAxonometric

Facts about School of Music

Total area:

16,900 m2

Project team:

João Luís Carrilho da Graça
Giulia de Appolonia
Susana Rato
Paulo Costa
João Manuel Alves
Filipe Homem
Inês Cortesão
Carlos Pereira
Miguel Costa
Pedro Teixeira de Melo
Tiago Castela
Julieta Cunha
Paula Miranda
Joanna Malitzki
Miguel Casal Ribeiro
Frederique Peti
Nuno Pinto
Paulo Barreto
Vanda Neto

Structural Engineering:

AFA consultores de engenharia
António Adão da Fonseca, Pedro Morujão

Mehanical Planning:

José Galvão Teles


Commins Acoustic Workshop
Daniel Commins, Luís Conde Santos

Electrical Planning:
Rúben Sobral

Natural Lighting:

Luís Fernandes

Water supply, Plumbing:
AFA consultores de engenharia - Paulo Silva

Security Planning:

António Portugal

Landscape Architecture:

Global - João Gomes da Silva


Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa

Photographed by Fernando Guerra | FG+S

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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