Custoias Civic Centre / Guilherme Machado

Architect: Guilherme Machado Vaz
Client: Matosinhos City Hall
Location: Matosinhos,
Project: 2002-2004
Construction: 2004-2006
Graphic Design: Ezzo Design
Structural Engineer: José Basto Lino
Electrical Engineer: Alexandre Martins
Contractor: Domingos Carvalho S.A.
Constructed Area: 760 sqm
Budget: 600.000 EURO (US $888.240)
Photographs: Leonardo Finotti


The Civic Centre in Custóias (Matosinhos) is built in Souto Square, a triangular space with bad construction, a central garden and imposing trees. The garden has been suffering through the years, as almost every old garden in Matosinhos has, constant and successive interventions and mutilations. It was even built a small building in it, the local public library. The Civic Centre was built to, amongst other things, replace this poor building. The library finally moved to the new building but the old one still remains between the trees in the garden.

situation plan

The Civic Centre is located on the plot, after lots of failed experimentation, only on the compliment of municipal plans and regulations, wich are, in panic situations, a relief…

With a square plan, the side dimensions is the maximum depth allowed by the City Hall in urban construction, 17.6m. The height and alignement of the Civic Centre with the existing buildings is also dictated by the same plans and regulations wich establish a moving back from the actual building front to widen the road section in a long term basis.


The Civic Centre of Custóias concentrates two valences in the same building. Cultural and Social. It intends, through a multimedia zone in the first floor and a leisure zone in the ground floor, to foment contact between generations.


The Project went after formal abstraction. It tried to insert in the chaotic city mesh an exception object, one that could, through it’s plasticity, produce a big contrast with the surroundings. The compact volume, almost a perfect cube, allowed articulation ‘games’ between elements that defined the building plastic composition without loosing it’s unicity.

Colour had a determining part and its definition was influenced by Mark Rothko’s paintings. There were used chromatic gradations in grey scale on the outside and colour gradations on the inside.
A third chromatic element was used in the interior metal stairs to create contrast with the walls. Colour had the capacity of introducing different environments in the building, and the gradations, as a cinematic element, to provoke movement and dynamic effects that deducted “visual weight” to the building and its interior spaces.


The construction materials were chosen according to their ability to create uniform spaces and deduct detail and visual elements to the building. The exterior walls finishings are smoth as the apparent beams, the windows are glued glass in stainless steel, custom made, which makes the frames disappear on the outside. Interior doors are made with the same plasterboard used in the walls and the floors have a floor leveller that combines with the ceiling.

Cite: "Custoias Civic Centre / Guilherme Machado" 29 Aug 2008. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • Jan

    This is a new building?? Sorry, but it looks like a 1960s bus terminal to me. I don’t see any real communication between the inside and the outside. Especially the leisure room in the large photo above doesn’t appeal to me at all, it hasn’t got any human proportions, with only some small windows and the bare naked ventilation tubes under the ceiling. Sorry, it just doesn’t fit for a room where people of different ages, background etc. might want to meet.

    The previously featured Bow Wow buildung or so many other great buildings featured on this site give good examples how to build houses and public spaces that communicate with their environment and really make you want to spend time in/on there.

  • JUST COOL Design Blog

    i agree, this is pretty ugly, unimaginative and incohesive design. maybe they tried to make up for the boring generic structural design outside with the loud hideous interior colors inside – it doesnt float my boat – sorry, its a thumbs down for me…

  • inaki garai

    hello from spain, i think you are cruel with the design, we must understand portugesse culture. they have been brave to decide to open WINDOWS and not a glass curtian wall,
    this is something we, modern architects,have forgotten to design

  • OH.Architecture

    We think this building deals very well with the urban fabric of a Portuguese coastal town

  • papier.carbone

    wow, this is the most boring interior setting I’ve ever seen

  • orlopesdesa

    There are a lot of ignorent architects who can’t understand architecture and context. Thats a thing Portuguese and spanish tried to explain to the world in the last decades, that the building cannot be detached from its surroundings, that its the place that shapes de form of the architecture. Thats why, a lot of you simply copy the reviews, because you don’t undersatnd that architecture is not only the form. Sorry my english.

  • gcarlo

    It does not reinforce the street line, but well done exterior work.

  • Kaud

    well, probably the building does not looks like
    very attractive such as civic center ( the main hall is quite boring, right), but the coloured staircase is well done, may be some cheap arrangement, but who knows the clients requirements??please don’t argue the way students love to do, i mean without thinking about costs and committments…as the architecture was just a paper and imagination thing.An other interesting issue is the exterior treatment , for sure not the most imaginative ever seen, but the orange lights coming out from the interiors are just backlighting the facade in a very charming way.

  • Arman

    A great example on how to make an appealling small public building with very few elements, in a very difficult and unappealling site. Still, there could have been a little more effort on furnishing, especially that “espaco polivalente” room: those seats/sofas and tables designed by Álvaro Siza look out of place (they aren’t especially good-looking anyway), and if that wasn’t enough, they’re really uncomfortable and really expensive. More could have been accomplished with less. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough to stand out of most. Nowadays, that’s excellent.

  • john obrien

    spend some time looking at donald judd and you just might be able to see the beauty in this building.