World celebrated, Portuguese architect, Alvaro Siza Vieira, has put his stamp on the Nadir Afonso Foundation Art Gallery --created in honour of local abstractionist artist, Nadir Afonso (1920 - 2013) and which was inaugurated in 2014 in the riverside city of Chaves, Portugal.
Built alongside the Tamega River, one of the main concerns that the architect faced was the high probability of the location’s flooding and how to protect the Foundation's structure -- along with the valuable artworks housed within it -- from possible destruction. The answer: to construct the entire rectangular building on a large, raised platform, approximately 3.5 meters high, balanced on supporting columns that run perpendicular to the riverbed. Accessed by a ramp with a 6% slope, this not only protects the building when and should the need arise, but also provides multiple, shaded pathways underneath the building for visitors to enjoy away from Portugal’s more than ample sunshine.
The building's white-concrete exterior walls, granite stairs, white marble balconies and pebble covered roof seem to perfectly complement the area’s natural environment while the pre-existing fruit trees on the property and the autochthonous species of arboreal and shrubby vegetation used for its landscaping further enhance the feeling that the Nadir Afonso Foundation building and its grounds were constructed with the utmost thought for their context.
Meanwhile, the same "feeling" in the exterior's matching minimalistic brightness continues inside the building seen through the light wood floors featured throughout, the white-washed plasterboard on the interior walls and ceilings and the use of thoughtfully placed skylights.
The organization of the building is constructed around three "zones" which run the entire length of the structure. These include the southwest zone with a reception area, public library and one hundred seat auditorium, and the northeast zone which features yet another reception area, the security center and technical spaces. Meanwhile, the three exhibition halls comprised of permanent space which also houses the foundation's archive -- as well as two temporary exhibition halls, are all located in the building's central zone. Making inventive use of the space and ample natural light at hand, the first hall can be asymmetrically subdivided into two, smaller rooms and features a continuous clerestory window running the length of the high ceiling while the second temporary exhibition space features a continuous, long window along the lower center part of the wall which runs alongside the riverbed below.