- Architects In Charge : Miguel Meirinhos, Pedro da Graça Lopes
- Collaborators : Pedro Oliveira, Margarida Oliveira
- Promoter : Ordem dos Médicos SRN
- Supervision : Fase – Estudos e Projectos S.A., Diogo Porto Carrero, Luísa Jacob, Ana Aguiar
- Stability : Armandina Reis, Carla Costa, Miguel Coutinho
- Infrastructure : Armandina Reis, Carla Costa, Miguel Coutinho
- Stability And Infrastructure : Armandina Reis, Carla Costa, Miguel Coutinho
- City : Porto
- Country : Portugal
Text description provided by the architects. In the context of a progressive population aging, the growth of eldest part of the society is inevitable. In Portugal, the increase number of the elderly occurred relatively fast during the 1990s and, in 2001, for the first time, the number of elderly (> 64 years) was higher than the number of young (<15 years)
With increasing life expectancy enhanced by medicine's progress, it is necessary to consider on the changes this fact carries. Architecture, as one of the main human activities over the environment, must meet the challenge efficiently.
To adapt the architectural production to the needs of the elderly, it is necessary to understand the processes of aging in a physical, social and psychological matter, the behaviour of the elderly and their perception of the environment in the society as well as its form of expression. It's the architect's responsibility to create structures / environments that combat and prevent inertia / inactivity / disability caused by the "less positive" consequences of aging. It is a powerful tool and a great responsibility the maintenance and social healing that can arise from this form of intervention, being this decisive in the attitude of society towards one of the stages of life that has been more marginalized.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” (Albert Einstein)
The Social Centre is part of a set of equipment that constitutes the headquarters of the Regional Section of the Medical Association in Porto. With the consolidation of the Medical Association over the years, valences were added to the complex: tennis courts, pool, parking areas and a centre of culture and conferences.
The Social Centre was housed in a former single-family dwelling that was remodelled and enlarged. The extension uses a new volume that provides physical and formal links with the existing one bearing a sense of praising the qualities of the spaces as a whole, avoiding competition or overlap the existing one. It is materialized in a single floor volume, contiguous to East and North facades of the original building, with a vertical exception appointment that reaches the entire height of the building, thus relating all floors via elevator (where were also introduced reception and access areas).
The implantation, although susceptible to some controversy, since it is recline over a contiguous lot, is seen as a unique opportunity to qualify this specific place. If, on the one hand, it allowed us to enhance the garden that exits in front of the main facade, on the other hand, it compensates the profile of the path to the existing multi-purpose building, allowing also access the new volumetry. Balance and harmony are some of the assumptions which justify many of the choices made: between the old and the new, between the place's logic and this intervention, the composition of spaces and indoor environments.
The internal organization of the new building part is quite simple. Noteworthy is the introduction of a perpendicular axes system of movement (whose intersection is performed in the main reception hall) that allows access to different areas and a rhythm punctuated with outward openings. The seizure of the inner organization is essential in a social nature framework and using a simple distribution system was crucial to facilitate this process. To each quadrant there is a differentiation of activities: exercise room, locker rooms, offices for medical care and multipurpose room. In the two upper floors, one is reserved for the main hall and the last is the library. This distribution also allows independent and simultaneous use of different valences. The location of the stairs provides an extra informal relationship allowing easy access between the spaces located on different floors.
There is a clear differentiation between the spaces of the existing (and restored) volume and the volume expansion, related, nevertheless, with the distribution of functions throughout the building. The new volume is characterized by a sobriety of lines and materials. The edges are cut in stone, steel and glass in a very closed and Spartan metric. The balance of the whole is achieved by a flat ceiling with particular characteristics. This arises from the need to solve several problems: construction, lighting, acoustic and thermal comfort, installation, operation and maintenance of infrastructure.
The use of a membrane of aluminium with a cropped pattern allowed hiding the full range of equipment and infrastructure in a delicate way. The pipeline, connecting cables, installing sensors, video cameras, fire fighting system and air exchange and ventilation channels are distracted from the view of the users through the white aluminium membrane. However it is not placed into question their normal operation and its maintenance is ensured through constructive modularity that allows access them through the panels that are removable.
One of the factors that most influenced the development of this ceiling was illumination. Looking for the formal purity of plans that make up the interior spaces, also the lighting was "hidden" by that membrane. It was essential determining the open surface percentage as well as the installed light power in order to model an optimal visual comfort. Make pleasant and balanced areas was a constant thought. We resorted to a cutting pattern inspired by the Art & Crafts movement (William Morris and John Ruskin) knowing it would be essential to counteract the strict planar orthogonal and metric structure (industrial), with organic and fluid lines that appeal to creativity and craftsmanship. The established dialogue enriches the whole.
The existing garden was rehabilitated. Some vegetation was replanted and was created a "green cloth" that extends in front of the building and its presence is unavoidable from interior spaces.