The top of a hill overlooking the valley of the Arunca river has been occupied since the time of the Roman empire, and since then performed multiple roles and configured very many spatial and social practices. From a small provincial community, it evolved to a vital defensive structure in a territorial network of military apparatus, and eventually became a touristic destination and an identifying device for the region.
After designing the reorganization of Pombal castle’s hill, Comoco Arquitectos were commissioned to design a visitor centre for the castle’s ward, including the landscaping of the area and the revitalization of the amenities already installed in the Torre de Menagem (the castle’s keep).
The program was compacted to the minimum and the volume was shaped in such a way as to make it a spatial device inspired by the tectonics of the castle’s stone masonry, especially the stairs connecting the platforms inside the castle’s precinct. In fact, the new volume creates a new platform that enables the access to the level of the 16th century Manuelino-style windows pierced on the southwest side of the castle’s curtain wall. It creates a liminal space that re-enacts the spatial experience of the castle as a device to exert control over the landscape at the same time that it performs as a safe haven for those looking for protection from the threat of the unknown.
Comoco Arquitectos design strategy for Pombal castle’s visitor centre pursues a deliberate ambiguous condition between a topographical feature – a limestone monolith, and an amiable wanderer, a stranger in search of a welcoming new home to rest.
Pombao Castle’s Visitor Centre, Pombal, Portugal
Architects: Comoco Arquitectos (Luís Miguel Correia, Nelson Mota and Susana Constantino)
Structural Engineering, Hidraulic and Acoustics: ABL – Gabinete de Projectos Lda
Electric devices: Luís Ribeiro
Mechanical devices: João Gonçalves Madeira da Silva
Client: Pombal Municipality