Musealization of the Archaeological Site of Praça Nova of São Jorge Castle / JLCG Arquitectos

FG+SG – , Sergio Guerra

Architect: João Luís Carrilho da Graça
Location: Lisbon,
Landscape Architect: João Gomes da Silva
Project Team: Francisco Freire, Vasco Melo, Pedro Abreu, Monica Ravazzolo, architects; Paulo Barreto and Vanda Neto, models
Foundations and Structures: Estudos Betar / José Pedro Venâncio and Paulo Mendonça
Water Installations: Estudos Betar / Marta Azevedo and Jorge Pinheiro
Electrical Installations: Ruben Sobral
Security Installations: GIPIC – Alexandre Martins
Graphic Design: Henrique Cayatte, Mónica Lameiro and Pedro Gonçalves
Project Area: 3,500 sqm
Budget: 1,000,000 €
Project Year: 2008-2010
Photographs: FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

“Language is an archaeological vehicle… the language we speak is a whole palimpsest of human effort and history.”

Russell Hoban

FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

The one hill occupied by the Castle of São Jorge is the site of the first known human settlement — dating to the Iron Age — of the place that would become the city of Lisbon, a strategic vantage point overlooking both the estuary of the River Tagus and its inland territory. The ‘Praça Nova’ of the Castle occupies an intramural promontory, enclosed by defense walls to the North and the West, and by the Santa Cruz Church, to the South, with a visual domain above the East walls over the city and the estuary.

FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

An extensive archaeological excavation of this site, begun in 1996, uncovered remnants of its successive periods of inhabitation — Iron Age settlement, Mediaeval Muslim occupation and a Fifteenth Century Palace —, and the most significant artifacts removed, protected and now exhibited at the Castle’s Museum, leaving the exposed archeological site open to an intervention of protection and musealization.

This intervention addressed the themes of protection, revelation and readability of the palimpsest that any such excavation represents, with a pragmatical approach aimed at clarifying the palindromic quality of interpretation that the exposed structures suggested in their spacial distribution.


Thus, the first action was the clear delimitation of the site with a precise incision, comparable to that of a surgical intervention on a living body. A membrane of corten steel was inserted to contain the higher perimetrical surface, allowing both access and a panoramic view of the site, the materiality of these walls slowly evolving and changing over time as a living material. The same precision of cut was used in the inserted elements that allow the visitor to comfortably wander through the site — the limestone steps, landings and seating — setting them apart from the roughness of the excavated walls.

FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

Stepping down to the site, to its simultaneously first material level and last period of occupation — the remnant pavement of the Fifteenth Century Palace of the Bishop of Lisbon — a hovering structure protects the existing mosaics, its underside covered in a black mirror that allows the visitor to see reflected the vertical perspective of the pavements that the eye level of their placement denies.

Further down the site and its timeline, the necessary canopy for the protection of the Eleventh Century Muslim domestic structures and its frescoes was taken as an opportunity to reproduce, through conjectural interpretation, its spacial experience as a series of independent rooms arranged around a patio that introduced light and ventilation into an otherwise exteriorly isolated dwelling. Professedly abstract and scenographic, the white walls that stage the domestic spatiality of the two excavated dwellings float above the visible foundations of the original walls, touching the ground on the mere six points where the evidence of the primeval limits is absent, while its translucent covering of polycarbonate and wood filters the sunlight.

FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra
section 02

Underlying the whole site, the evidence of the Iron Age settlement is exposed and protected trough a self-contained volume that, in a spiraled movement, extends from the perimetrical corten walls to embrace the depth necessary to its revelation. Massive and dramatic, the volume is pierced with horizontal slits that invite the curiosity for the observation of its interior, leading the visitor around the excavated pit to the point where the view is unobstructed and both the physical and time distance of the exhibited structures is made obvious.

The palimpsest of the site History is thus decoded and the possibility of its palindromic time-space reading made clear: not only trough the informational signage at the disposal of the visitor, but also, and significantly, trough the experience construed by its material protection and musealization.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Musealization of the Archaeological Site of Praça Nova of São Jorge Castle / JLCG Arquitectos" 18 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • Frederico Guedes

    Good morning,

    About the text of “Praça Nova do Castelo de São Jorge, The correct name of the river is “Tejo”, not Tagus. Please, you must say in portuguese, is a portuguese river.

    Thank you,

    Fred Guedes

    • godryk

      Tagus is the latin AND english name of the river. Some countries, regions, cities and geographical features have names in different languages which are used when writing/speaking in those languages. It makes sense to use the english name of an international geographical feature in an english text. That portuguese river whose name “must” be written in portuguese runs in front of my town in Spain, where we call it Tajo, and I’m not offended by seeing its name in english as I’m not offended, you may not believe me, when I see my country’s name written in portuguese (Espanha), english (Spain) or german (Spanien), you may

  • GC

    Modern yet subtle.. Beautiful project!

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  • DG Arquitecto

    I like this project.

    I think that the Portuguese architecture is one of the best of the world today

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