Photos: José Manuel Costa Alves
Cais do Carvão Complex - Aquarium & Marine Biology Station
The Cais do Carvão Complex - comprising a marine biology research centre with an aquarium and integrating the preexistence of the Naval Club and of the house of Quinta da Calaça - is located along the beautiful sinuous coastline of black porous rock which resulted from the rapid cooling of the volcanic lava with the sea water, in Funchal (Madeira Island). The existing set is an example of the sensitive appropriation of the territory characteristic of the Island, demanding a study as accurate as possible of the previous transformations throughout history and an evaluation of the current conditions to seek to value its heritage - which is also that of the landscape – composed by the system of stone walls and terraced platforms that are generated; by the house originally built in the first half of the 19th century by Henrique Vitch of neo-Palladian influence of British colonial architecture that spread widely in the city of Funchal throughout the 19th century and which still constitutes a precious heritage in the Island; and, not least, by the arboreal mass and tropical vegetation, which stands out a magnificent group of palm trees.
The design proposal sought to strengthen this unique situation, revealing, within its structural principles, a great sensitivity in the adaptation to the place, through three main interventions intended to be discrete. Thus, it sought to reinforce the relationship with the sea, to extend the terrain logic between the gently inclined terrains that form the cliff, to minimize the new architectural elements despite the required mass due to the program requested, to reinforce the centrality of the ancient house in relation to the set, to demolish and remove accessory constructions added over time, and to excavate whenever possible in order to avoid excessive volumes and the obstruction of the view towards the sea. The first intervention consists in the creation of a long wall parallel to the coastline, vaguely curved, which contains, at the upper level, the Belvedere of arrival to the place and the marking of the entrance to the complex. The second intervention consists of the delimitation of a natural platform at the bottom of the Belvedere, reached by descending a staircase, which frames the ocean below and distributes the access routes. The third intervention corresponds to the presence of two lower volumes against the cliff and supported by the maritime work of the pier, which extends to the east to receive the research centre and, to the west, to absorb some external tanks, ending in a ramp that gives access to the sea. Two emerging vertical elements - a slim tower lift providing direct access to the street and, on the other side of the house, a compact volume leaning onto the slope - establish the limit of the intervention.