Casa dos Cubos / EMBAIXADA arquitectura

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Architect: EMBAIXADA arquitectura
Location: Praceta Alves Redol, 2300 , Portugal
Project Team: Albuquerque Goinhas, Augusto Marcelino, Cristina Mendonça, Luis Baptista, Nuno Griff, Pedro Patrício, Sofia Antunes
Project Year: 2007
Project Area: 980,34 sqm
Photographs: Courtesy of EMBAIXADA arquitectura

Courtesy of EMBAIXADA arquitectura

Since the last decade of the xx century, it has been usual, especially in the old Europe, the commission of projects demanding the conservation, renovation and conversion of constructions from a recent and distant past and from the most diverse typologies, and cultural matrices – This Interior architecture often becomes a field of experimentation for architectural ideas and one of the most challenging themes of the contemporary city. Not only because of urban conditions but also because of historical, social and political demands.

Courtesy of EMBAIXADA arquitectura

This preservation syndrome, sometimes leads to a overvaluation of the building structures. Age is not a warranty of architectural quality; on the contrary it is a natural process of selection. The adequacy to new and contemporary programs can be extremely liable to error. If in certain cases the possibility of adequacy is enrolled in the spatial identity of the building, in others the change of uses reveals itself inadequate, leading to an inconsistent meaning in the character of the building. Sometimes the preservation of the architecture we possess, can be, the worst manner of Destruction.

Courtesy of EMBAIXADA arquitectura

The project is part of a nationwide and governmental program – the Polis programme. The strategy was to revive cities by introducing new equipments such as the Environmental Monitoring and Interpretation Offices (EMIO) buildings. The aim was for this project to energize the rehabilitation of the city. The EMIO are public infrastructure for exhibition and other cultural events, concerning environmental and regional subjects.


The Project is a reconversion of a former rundown infrastructure that plays a relevant role in the social and urban context of the city of Tomar, although without any particular architectural interest. Located at the beginning of the city historical centre, the building has been subjected to several attachments and changes over the years, finding itself threatened by some decadence and inadequate for the intended use. Even though the building it’s protected under historic-preservation ordinances.


The new program comprises two distinct areas: a public area for exhibitions, meetings and cafeteria and a private area consisting of Lecture rooms and accommodation for invited artists. Confronted with the regulation plans, the design maintains the entire external perimeter construction, while its rundown interior is totally scooped out. Therefore and due to the functional program, the new construction establishes itself as the anatomy of the existing building. A new architectural body that runs throughout the available space, de-multiplying tectonically the finite interior into a new series of places and programmatic situations. The private areas are volumetrically defined within the structure and optimized for inhabitability. Each with its own access, atmosphere, identity, shape, use and dimension. The Social life, exhibitions and meetings take place in the interstitial space around the new structure, and are characterized and organized by the programmatic events defined by the enclosed spaces.

Courtesy of EMBAIXADA arquitectura

The spaces “born” from a visceral symbiosis and from the tension between this architectonic organism and the physical limits that keep him in captivity. The existing building acquires a new interior reading, being reconfigured and transformed in a unitarian and hermetic space with the use of white mate paint and mate epoxy resin coating. For the organism that contaminates the interior it was created and developed a kind of skin. A materiality intended to be abstract and simultaneously expressionistic. Through some kind of alchemy a substance was developed, a recipe, by conjoining some “ingredients”: Dark pigment, Acrylic resin and reflective glass spheres. The entrails of this animal were painted with glossy white paint and with glossy epoxy resin coating. A new interior within an interior interior. A machine capable of producing space, installed in a shell that was progressively deflated and then insufflated with a new and strange form of life.

Client: Tomarpolis & Tomar City Hall
Intervention Management: ATKINS International Limited
General Contractor: Alpeso- Construções, SA
Structural Engineer: Pedro Fragoso Viegas (Civil Engineer)
Sewage and Water Engineer: Rui F. Mendonça (Civil Engineer)
Electrical and Telecommunication Engineer: Augusto Luis Marcelino (Electrical Engineer)
Mechanical Engineer: Luís Andrade (Mechanical Engineer)
Heating and Acoustical Study: Nuno F. Oliveira, Miguel P. Freire (Civil Engineers)
Fire Consultant: Ana Salomé (Civil Engineer)

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Casa dos Cubos / EMBAIXADA arquitectura" 27 Jan 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • rock

    i’m also a great admirer of aires mateus’ house in Brejos de Azeitão.

  • randomfischer`

    Brilliant project. Concept is clear and executed precisely. I like the subtly of the of material choice to delineate the private/public, solid/void difference. And it’ll only get better once it’s inhabited.

    One, small problem: It’s a little unfortunate that from the first floor plan it looks like in order to stretch the ‘solid’ volume s creates quite long, boxed in corridors. This is especially curious since they solved this problem of banal circulatory space with the staircase by cutting the top off, and letting it breathe. Why not do the same for the corridor and maintain a consistent circulatory strategy?

    That is just a nitpick. Wonderful job!

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