Text description provided by the architects. The Campus of the Setúbal Polytechnic Institute lies in the outskirts of the town of Setúbal, with various schools built during the eighties and nineties (including Alvaro Siza’s well known Teacher’s College) in a typical southern Portugal landscape of gently rolling slopes and patches of cork trees, all bathed in strong southern sunlight.
In 2007, while envisioning the construction of two new buildings (an Health Sciences School and a Canteen), the Institute’s direction decided to confer a greater sense of unity to the exterior spaces of the Campus. Stage 1 of the resulting project included the completion of a pathway linking an existing neighborhood (South of the Campus) to bus stops on the Northern side of the Campus (linking to the town centre).
At the (northern) end of this pathway, a small structure was proposed, to serve as a resting and meeting point for students arriving or leaving the Campus and as an announcement of the Campus presence to those passing on the road.
Alongside an existing cobblestone path, a simple white volume was “carved” so as to allow for a oblique crossing through its mass, recognizing existing pedestrian trails on site. A shaded passage, a bench and an enclosed usable area were thus “revealed” from the original mass. A “light box” was added, above the volume’s roof, to be seen from the North at night.
Although the structure was designed at first without a specific functional use (it could be a coffee shop, a guardhouse or a small convenience store), it ended up being built as an agency for the Santander-Totta Bank with little modifications to the original layout.
The strong red color of the bank’s visual code helped to emphasize the formal intentions of the project, revealing the “excavation” of the original volume. This combination, in turn, allowed for a very strong expression of the bank’s identity in this place. Both the Polytechnic and the Bank were pleased with this symbiosis and pushed for a rapid construction of this structure.
After 45 days of construction during a hot summer, a “red shade” was born at the Campus.