Arquipélago – Contemporary Arts Centre

Architizer | João Mendes Ribeiro Arquitecto | menos é mais arquitectos

Architizer featured project.

Design: João Mendes Ribeiro Arquitecto & menos é mais arquitectos.
Location: Ribeira Grande, Portugal.
Client: Regional Directorate of Culture (DRaC) of the Regional Government of the Azores.
Photographs: José Campos courtesy of menos é mais arquitectos.

Arquipélago – Contemporary Arts Centre seeks to unite the different scales and times of its parts. It is a transdisciplinary project whose mission is to disseminate, create and produce emerging culture: a space of exchange and interface for people, knowledge and events.

The design of Arquipélago – Contemporary Arts Centre maintains the industrial character of the whole and highlights the dialogue between an existing building (former alcohol / tobacco factory) and the new construction (arts and culture center, storage facilities, multipurpose / performing arts hall, laboratories, artist studios).

The Arquipélago – Contemporary Arts Centre acquires its identity in the quiet variation between the preexistence and the two new buildings. The containment strategy of facilities implementation enhances the spatial efficiency and hierarchical functionality of the different areas of the existing factory complex.

The new buildings absorb the required functionalities, with special conditions, that are not compatible with the spatiality of the pre-existing buildings.

The project for the Arquipélago does not exaggerate the differences between the old and the new buildings. On the contrary, it seeks to unite the different scales and times of its parts through a pictorial manipulation of the form and materiality of the buildings: the existing constructions are marked by volcanic stone masonry and the new buildings are characterized by an abstract form, without reference or allusion to any language. They are built in concrete with local basalt, continuously working with the variation of surface textures and rugosity, complementing the mass of the buildings with the emptiness of the patios.

The design is committed to the quality of what exists, showing the typological variations – new buildings are placed next to the existing ones in a serene manner – underlining the architectural memory of a given period and the new addition, without damaging or subverting the spatial and constructive structures of the whole. Context and contiguity contribute to the autonomy of the object.


The new program reinvents the existent building, making it a meaningful space in a peripheral region in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Site Plan


The Arquipélago – Contemporary Arts Centre adds meaning to the social and cultural context where it is built. A new public space is materialized in a central square/patio where art feels comfortable and blurs the lines between private and public spheres, leisure and work, art and life.

The aspects of the sustainable performance of the buildings were addressed through their materiality (structures, infrastructures) and the absorption of the existing knowledge of craftmanship enriched by a timeless way of building. The sustainable measures adopted are passive systems that seek to provide comfort for the users: the density of the concrete walls offers inertia and energy efficiency, and rainwater is reused.