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Souto de Moura’s Storyhouse for Paula Rego
October 20, 2009 by: Vicky Richardson
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The twin chimneys of the Casa das Historias are inspired by chimneys at Sintra Palace and made from concrete that is coloured to reflect local terracotta, and shuttered with planks of timber in a herringbone pattern. All photography by Leonardo Finotti: www.leonardofinotti.com
The Casa das Historias Paula Rego seems to be that rare project which has brought together an enlightened client, a brilliant architect and powerful subject matter. At first the combination of architect Eduardo Souto de Moura and the figurative artist Paula Rego seems unlikely: an architect known for his interest in minimalism and an artist worldreknowned for her soulful expression and love of folk-tales. Yet the pairing makes clear that both share a sensitivity for universal values of proportion, colour and composition, even if it’s impossible to make direct parallels between their work.
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Elevations show the building surrounded by mature trees. The site was chosen so that as many of the these could be retained as possible
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The building is a collection of forms that reflect the internal spaces of the museum. Unified by a single material – coloured concrete – it sits comfortably within an oasis of lush grass and mature Eucalyptus trees, as if it were a farm or ranch. An ancient wall of rough-cast render protects the site, once La Parada, a garden where aristocrats and royalty would ride and play sports.
La Parada was a place for entertainment for the very rich.Architecture & Design 2010. an opening in a 100-year-old rough-cast render wall Close to the fortress of Cascais. until. She spent her teenage years in Estoril. who wanted to keep her away from the dictatorship of Salazar. despite the fact that since the Sixties her permanent home has been London where she married the critic andartist Victor Willing. and a casino.22. An exhibition of her work at the Serralves museum in Porto in 2004 attracted more visitors than any other.co.blueprintmagazine. only about 20 minutes away by train.php/architecture/souto-de-mouras-storyhouse-for-paula-rego/ Page 2 of 9 .Blueprint Magazine . with the encouragement of her father. at the age of 17 she came to London to study at the Slade School of Art. A sheltered courtyard between the two chimneys is protected on three sides In the 1930s Paula Rego grew up here and attended the English-speaking school St Julian’s. Cascais municipality is small but includes some of the most important historic architecture of the region.03.uk/index. Fine houses continued to be built until the 1940s and 1950s. grand villas sprung up along the coastline. Close to the historic palace of Sintra and the popular seaside town Estoril. who would come to Cascaisto escape the heat and dust of Lisbon. creates a local tax revenue of about six million euros. In 2005 representatives of Cascais contacted her to ask if she would consider helping to establish a museum dedicated to her work. Even today some of Portugal’s richest families inhabit in the area. 17:50 Tomorrow’s Thoughts Today Urban Omnibus Videogum WIDN blog PUBLICATIONS a+u ARK ASC Info Experimenta FX Magazine idFX Magazine Mark New Statesman World Interior Design Network X2 Magazine The gateway. catering for their amusement. In the 19th century. Her profile in Portugal has grown in recent years. http://www.
cultural buildings such as the Casa das Historias. The base of Bluestone marble juts out to emphasise that the concrete is resting on top of it This ambitious programme is scheduled to run for another four years.blueprintmagazine.co. 17:50 The beautifully composed ground plan shows the arrangement of galleries around a central.’ says Justino. and one of the only entirely new buildings. including refurbishments. Ana Clara Justino. the SantaMarta lighthouse museum.php/architecture/souto-de-mouras-storyhouse-for-paula-rego/ Page 3 of 9 . António d’Orey Capucho. and is being implemented by the council’s impressive head of culture. a former secondary school teacher.22. new public facilities such as schools and libraries. ‘Until recently we didn’t have anything of international quality or to attract tourism. cuts the corner off the north-west of the building.Blueprint Magazine . who also acted as the client for the Casa das Historias.03. Cascais participated in the Lisbon Architecture Triennale in 2007 and showed 38 high-quality projects. ‘but whatever we build has to be small scale: we’re not trying to rival Bilbao. temporary exhibition space In 2002 the newly elected mayor of Cascais.Architecture & Design 2010. and the competition entries for an information centre in the town square. had proposed a strategy to use tax collected from the casino and from the area’s wealthy residents to invest in a 12-year development strategy to create a ‘contemporary architectural heritage’ that would provide a new impetus for tourists to visit Cascais. The Casa das Historias would become a key component of the strategy.’ http://www. A small gallery on the left.uk/index.
Next year. beginning with Marlborough Fine Arts’ collection of Rego’s work Most of the projects have been refurbishments.php/architecture/souto-de-mouras-storyhouse-for-paula-rego/ Page 4 of 9 . 17:50 The temporary space. Completed in 2007. will be used for two exhibitions a year. which Rego joined in 1989. Love. and a representative of Marlborough Fine Art gallery. http://www. architect and assistant to Justino at the Department of Culture. Carolina Willing. shows her regular model Lila Nunes wearing Rego’s mother’s wedding dress Although in most cases the starting point for the new work has been an existing structure. the influenceof the northern Porto School of Architecture has been important. vernacular forms.22.Blueprint Magazine . an architect (and son of the Mayor). human-scale projects’. The superb SantaMarta Lighthouse museum by AiresMateus is one such example.uk/index. shaped like castellations.co. A historic lighthouse was restored and a new building carefully added in the form of a series of white pavilions.blueprintmagazine. Paula Rego’s 1995 pastel drawing on paper. a large high-ceilinged gallery. or in the case of the Casa das Historias. According to Justino. studied in Porto and has been a strong advocate for the Porto school. Each houses parts of the new programme: shop. ‘the northern architects give us the response to the site that we want for a series of small. the council will pass over control of the Casa das Historias to a charitable foundation made up of key representatives including Paula Rego’s daughter. washrooms and cafe. along with Cascais’s head of planning Diogo Capucho. Carlos Bessa.03. the museum is a work of great subtlety and made an important statement about Cascais’s ambition to create a new distinctive architectural character. but even these have been opportunities to make strong statements about contemporary Portuguese architecture.Architecture & Design 2010.
Since 1988 her regular model has been a compatriot. though produced from a studio in Kentish Town. http://www.22.Architecture & Design 2010. who nursed her husband in the final years of his life. such as at the north-west corner of the building where a small chamber juts out from a large gallery to provide an intimate setting for a series of drawings. with wall shelves prior to stock being arranged Rego has always insisted that the most important aspect of her work is its narrative content.03. She is inspired by illustrators and filmmakers (earlyWalt Disney and Luis Buñuel) rather than by fine artists. at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. providing a place for rest and views of the garden. and to provide a domestic setting. Her work. 1984. the galleries tell the story of Rego’s own life and work. is infused with Portuguese character: women with strong features. black hair and full skirts. and particularly that of women. can just be seen Rego is a heroic figure in Portugal. a place to rest and to enjoy views out to the garden. In 1997.blueprintmagazine. but she also has a public profile after speaking out about politics and in particular the role of women in Portuguese society. At the Casa das Historias (literally House of Stories). the Opera series. her ‘drawn’ paintings on large canvases.php/architecture/souto-de-mouras-storyhouse-for-paula-rego/ Page 5 of 9 . 17:50 An intimate gallery juts out at the corner. or other stories or situations that often express outrage about the human condition. Lila Nunes. The story unfolds as you walk from room to room. She was highly critical of the fact that many people chose not to vote. which meant that the practise continued to be illegal. The bookshop. In the large gallery adjacent. and the etchings of Portuguese and English fairy tales. the interior of the building seems disconnected from its setting.Blueprint Magazine . when the country had a national referendum on the subject of abortion rights.Most of her paintings and drawings tell stories based on her own memories. beginning with her early collages. she exhibited a powerful series of paintings of women undergoing abortions. Rego’s acrylic painting The Vivian Girls in Tunisia. and the colours of the Portuguese architecture and landscape.uk/index. Apart from that instance. There are moments of intimacy.co. She is the country’s best-known artist. Untitled.
telling me that the most important thing is not for people to see her work. The choice of architect was made by Rego. and drawing is a thread that runs through the permanent and temporary exhibitions (the latter is taken from the Marlborough Fine Art’s collection and will be on display until 2010).php/architecture/souto-de-mouras-storyhouse-for-paula-rego/ Page 6 of 9 . The role of lines. The entrance hall looking along the path that leads away diagonally Hence Casa das Historias is one of the few architectural projects in Cascais that resulted from a direct commission rather than from a competition. the architecture is muted and restrained. rather than an artist.blueprintmagazine. The colour and materials remain the same throughout: chalky grey walls that seem to echo the chalkiness of Rego’s own pastel drawings. whether in the large pastel works (where the lines are never smudged). and Souto deMoura’s Braga stadium (2000): ‘I heard he had done a football stadium in a cave and thought that he was particularly imaginative’.22. ‘the building ceases to exist’. http://www. charming persona comes as something of a surprise. or in etchings and lithographs. and a dark grey Bluestone marble.uk/index.03. or as Justino puts it. she seemed nervous. A few days before the grand opening of the Casa das Historias. which is quarried locally in Cascais. Rego was involved in decisions about all these materials: Souto deMoura Architects would present samples and colours for discussion. is central to Rego’s work.co.Architecture & Design 2010. Rego’s work is so strong – at times monstrous – that her modest. Rego describes herself as a ‘drawer’.Blueprint Magazine . She’d been impressed by the London Serpentine pavilion of 2005 designed by Alvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto deMoura. but to ‘bring attention and energy to folk tales and story-telling’. 17:50 Inside the chimneys are void spaces with skylights at the top Inside. full of imperfectionsand fossils.
Horizontally shuttered concrete rests on a base of marble. which rises out of the Aires Mateus Souto deMoura’s abstract architecture is suprisingly sympathetic to her approach. many from the 1980s (for example the Operas series). 17:50 The renovation of the 19th century Santa Marta Lighthouse and the addition of a small museum by Aires Mateus architects.Blueprint Magazine . apart from being husband and father to her three children. many of which have never been seen before. was a hugely important figure in the development of her work. adjusting the dye until it was right.blueprintmagazine. that Rego has donated to the foundation. is part of Cascais municipality’s 12year development programme The museum’s permanent collection is made up of 257 etchings and 278 drawings. and he is represented in the collection with 15 oil paintings. whose irregular trunks and branches appear on the walls in silhouette as if they were hand-drawn lines. the museum sits on the battery of a coastal fort.uk/index. occurring on terracotta roof tiles and plant pots and in the warm-toned render of neighbouring villas. project architect.php/architecture/souto-de-mouras-storyhouse-for-paula-rego/ Page 7 of 9 .’ The result is reduced to the point of feeling primitive. Although the technique is not unusual. lighthouses. using shuttering made from timber planks instead of large panels.co. Souto deMoura experimented with several samples of concrete. and certain works from the 1960s and 1990s. the shuttering makes a herringbone pattern. The terracotta colour is very much part of the area. and when the walls slope in to form two geometric forms. Opened in 2007. The mono-material and coloured facades are a backdrop for a number of mature trees. which will be exhibited in a retrospective of his career fromMarch 2010.22. The construction was apparently simple. Every joint length and height of timber. To determine the precise colour. although these are conical and grey. http://www. She has also loaned 52 paintings. The colouring is not quite as precise: the rusty red is satisfyingly uneven and painterly. In fact. the references in colour and form are a mix of local vernacular and early20th century houses. like a wall drawing by Sol LeWitt.Architecture & Design 2010. the forms are a mix of references. One very direct reference seems to be the twin chimneys of Sintra Palace. ‘everything is studied to the millimetre. and agricultural silos of Cascais. says Koch. but very much evoke the coastal fortresses.03. According to Sergio Koch. Willing.
Architecture & Design 2010. and with the twin chimneys to the left side of the entrance hall. which is evident in the floor plan. An inhabited wall houses facilities such as a meeting room.Blueprint Magazine . or a large kitchen fireplace where the room and the hearth are the same.uk/index. is the echo of the diagonal entrance path in the north-west corner where a small gallery juts out into the garden.blueprintmagazine. passing under a natural arch of Eucalyptuses. they are distinguished from the original buildings of the lighthouse The plan of Casa das Historias is a rational composition of rectangles grouped around the central exhibition space.co. looking up. is reminiscent of a James Turrell Skyspace: a square of light sky above a void.03. the location of the building on the site was determined by the position of trees and by some derelict tennis courts. housing a very well-researched bookshop and a bar/restaurant. the twin turrets are the features of Souto deMoura’s building that will make their way on to tourist leaflets and into magazines. According to Koch. shop and WCs. These are the only interior spaces where the architecture is more important than what is inside. One beautiful detail. http://www.php/architecture/souto-de-mouras-storyhouse-for-paula-rego/ Page 8 of 9 . from an opening in the wall. which were the only unvegetated area. The effect. 17:50 The original 19th-century buildings have been restored and clad with subtlely Inevitably.Most of the existing trees were retained and the entrance path cuts diagonally across the site. With a flat roof and white render.22. the largest gallery.
The majority of newly built art museums are for mixed collections. angled reveals to the doors and windows. © Copyright 2010 World Market Intelligence.22. raises the possibility of how and whether architecture should seek to reflect the character of the work within it.Blueprint Magazine . http://www. The Casa das Historias is a magical house for stories in more ways than one. powerful forms and tells its own stories. and all are worth exploring.blueprintmagazine. therefore. or alternatively act as a foil against it.03.php/architecture/souto-de-mouras-storyhouse-for-paula-rego/ Page 9 of 9 .Architecture & Design 2010. The combination of Rego and Souto deMoura is a good balance: the output of both has exuberance. Filed under: Architecture Comments (0) Leave a Reply You must be logged in to post a comment. to provide shade and also reflect the shape of the fortresses’ battlements Creating a place and a building for a specific body of work is not something an architect is often asked to do. or indeterminate temporary exhibitions. Casa das Historias.uk/index.co. Yet the two artists use entirely specific and independent means of expression. 17:50 The single-storey rendered pavilions have deep.
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