Museum

Visiting the Museum

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Sala do Museu com as paredes cobertas de textos.

The architectural plans for the Serralves Museum were first drawn up in 1991 by the architect Alvaro Siza. The new building was finally inaugurated in 1999, harmoniously integrated within the surrounding urban area and the pre-existing spaces of the gardens of the Park and Villa.
A visit to the Museum always offers much more than the exhibitions alone. It’s also an opportunity to discover the particularities of each space within this architectural work, that has a strong organizational structure and great flexibility and transformational capacity, enabling it to respond to the diversity and unpredictability of the contemporary art works on display.

Project by Siza Vieira and an architectural programme with a wide range of different requirements.

A key aspect was to ensure that the project forged a dialogue with the urban surroundings and Serralves Park. The building’s implantation site was chosen so as to create the least possible impact on the surroundings. The architect Álvaro Siza – who began working on the project in 1991 – was responsible for integrating a new building within a space that already had its own distinct layout and identity.

Inaugurated in June 1999, the museum’s building is constituted by a main body with two exhibition wings extending southwards. It thus has a very specific layout. In the words of the architect: "The exhibition area was developed in a "U” shaped layout, in order to enable the garden to enter inside the museum and minimise the building’s environmental impact.”

The relationship with the garden is achieved in function of the definition of the building’s overall layout. Álvaro Siza summarises this idea: "For example, in the case of Serralves, with a delightful woodland in the vicinity, by putting an open patio here, the landscape enters within the building. Furthermore, the window takes full advantage of this factor. It brings the landscape inside.”

He continues, by explaining the building’s integration within the urban surroundings and Serralves Park: "It was almost an impossible task to build the museum - because it couldn’t influence either the street or the Park. It was therefore necessary to build a large scale building, that would have a minimal impact on the surroundings (a residential area with two-storey houses) and would be in harmony with, or complement, the high-quality garden .”

As a result he designed: "A museum inserted within a pre-existing established garden – an exquisite garden.”

Entrance Path to the Museum

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The covered walkway, leading to the Museum, begins at the entrance gate, and defines the transition between the exterior and interior.

The architecture guides the visitor. There are three key areas: the space next to the entrance gate, the space leading to the ticket office incorporating a natural opening onto the park, the ticket office itself, implanted within the narrowing of the walkway and, finally the path from the ticket office to the main entrance, which reveals a progressive opening to the patio containing a magnolia tree. This patio establishes a connection between the auditorium to the left and the museum in front.

Museum Atrium

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The Atrium serves as the Museum’s nerve centre, redistributing itineraries and enabling various accesses. At the level of the Hall, there’s access to the Information Desk, Cloakroom, Library and Exhibition Room.

At the upper floor level, there’s access to the Educational Service room, Multipurpose room and the Restaurant/Cafetaria, including an Esplanade, offering views over the Park.

At the basement level, there’s access to the Library, Bar and Auditorium. As in the case of the main hall in Serralves Villa, it’s possible to observe a sequence of doors and windows. This sequence establishes a dynamic relationship between the various spaces and offers a clearer understanding of the building’s overall organisation, articulated between two main axes.

It’s worth noting, in particular, the window at the upper floor level, which provides a surprising view of a birch tree outside.

Sala Central

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The key concept underpinning the Serralves Museum’s project is the succession of rooms. This is not a building in which the various spaces are similar to one another, and ordered at the same level. Instead each room poses its own difference in architectural terms.

Álvaro Siza clearly expresses this feature, recalling the example of the Galician Centre of Contemporary Art: "The concept is similar to that of Santiago, consisting in a succession of rooms of different dimensions with two levels.”

To this extent, the Museum has a unique nature and is spatially-flexible, permitting new ways of organising and displaying exhibitions.

The Central Room, which establishes a connection to the Museum’s left wing, is characterised by its symmetry, reinforced by the existence of a window that completes a sequence of passages, which define the longitudinal axis, visible from the Museum Atrium. This window is sometimes blocked off, due to exhibition assembly requirements. There are two exhibition levels in this room, connected by a ramp. Unlike a staircase, the ramp frees the spectators’ gaze to the works on display.

The Museum’s Right Wing

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In the rooms of the Museum’s right wing there is a distinctive lighting system, normally designated as an "inverted table”. Visitors should observe the ceiling and see how this system plays a crucial role in definition of the exhibition spaces, offering a gentle, controllable light.

In the following rooms, the windows frame the landscape, "bringing it” inside the Museum. Nature silently participates in the architectural space and the overall itinerary of the exhibition. Note how the "Window-eye” projects our gaze outside, framing a view of one of the Park’s ancient trees.

The Museum’s Right Wing – Southern end

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Note the meeting point between the previous rooms and the following rooms. The design of this passage invites visitors to circulate, without the need for complementary information – the path itself suggests movement, thus making the itinerary more fluid.

This effect is achieved through rotation of the volume corresponding to the rooms, in relation to the established main axis. In front, a window provides an admirable frame, offering a magnificent view over the Woodland. It’s also worth noting the window at the start of the corridor which runs parallel to these rooms: it offers a view of an ancient chestnut tree in Serralves Park.

The Museum’s Left Wing

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The first room of the Museum’s left-wing has a distinctive skylight, that - given its proportions and characteristics - is reminiscent of the skylight in Serralves Villa. The influences are quite evident, both in terms of the rectangular shape and our reading of the flagstone. The next room is characterised by its high ceiling and wooden floor.

Stairs to the basement floor of the Museum’s Left Wing

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Establishing a connection between the two exhibition floors, this staircase initially creates a somewhat uncomfortable sensation of tightening and narrowing.

However as we descend the stairs, a window opens up in front of us, creating a sensation of relief, as the space progressive widens.

Marble Room

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Notice the large glass windows. Combining the room’s southern orientation with the integration of large windows and a white marble floor, the architect successfully creates a sensation of amplitude and great luminosity.

This sensation is even greater since visitors have been guided through a narrow, shadowy space - the stairs – before reaching this room. In this manner, the architect admirably succeeds in overcoming the fact that this room has a lower ceiling height than that of the previous rooms.

Wooden Room

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The most surprising detail of this room is the fact that it is constituted by three different ceiling heights, which increase as we gaze through room.

Beginning with a lower, more cosy, ceiling height, as we gaze into the room the ceiling height progressively increases. The contrast is also achieved by the fact that the room once again has a wooden floor.

Library

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The Library is located on Levels 1 and 2 of the Museum building. Its key characteristics include a huge window overlooking the Park, which reminds us of a moving "landscape painting” in which the passers-by are the protagonists. The Library’s interior veranda offers a view over the lower floor.

Using the window as a reference, it is easy discover the relationship between the two lateral volumes - although they have identical forms, their positions are symmetrically inverted.

Inaugurated in 2001, the Library contains information on contemporary art and the landscape, from the 1960s to the present day. The documentation fund is available for consultation by the general public, constituted by exhibition catalogues, reference works, essays and periodical publications - in the fields of the fine arts and performing arts. There are also other collections that may be consulted by interested persons, ranging from students to researchers, artists and art critics. The Library’s collection closely reflects the themes and artists represented in the Museum’s Collection and programming.

Auditorium

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The Library is located on Levels 1 and 2 of the Museum building. Its key characteristics include a huge window overlooking the Park, which reminds us of a moving "landscape painting” in which the passers-by are the protagonists. The Library’s interior veranda offers a view over the lower floor.

Using the window as a reference, it is easy discover the relationship between the two lateral volumes - although they have identical forms, their positions are symmetrically inverted.

Inaugurated in 2001, the Library contains information on contemporary art and the landscape, from the 1960s to the present day. The documentation fund is available for consultation by the general public, constituted by exhibition catalogues, reference works, essays and periodical publications - in the fields of the fine arts and performing arts. There are also other collections that may be consulted by interested persons, ranging from students to researchers, artists and art critics. The Library’s collection closely reflects the themes and artists represented in the Museum’s Collection and programming.