Casa dos Cubos by Embaixada is a conversion of a former rundown factory infrastructure that plays a relevant role in the urban context of the city of Tomar in Portugal, although without any particular architectural interest.
Located at the beginning of the city historical centre, the building has been subjected to several attachments and changes over the years, finding itself threatened by some decadence and inadequate for the intended use. The new program comprises two distinct areas: a public area for exhibitions, meetings and cafeteria and a private area consisting of Lecture rooms and accommodation for invited artists.
Confronted with the regulation plans, the design maintains the entire external perimeter construction, while its rundown interior is totally scooped out.
Therefore and due to the functional program, the new construction establishes itself as the anatomy of the existing building. The private areas are volumetrically defined within the structure, optimized for inhabitability, each with its own access, atmosphere, identity, shape, function and dimension. The social life, exhibitions and meetings take place in the interstitial space around the new structure, and are characterized and organized by the programmatic events defined by the enclosed spaces.
Since the last decade of the xx century, it as been usual, especially in the old Europe, the commission of projects demanding the conservation, renovation and conversion of constructions from a recent and distant past and from the most diverse typologies, and cultural matrices – this interior architecture often becomes (for young practices in particular) by default a field of experimentation for architectural ideas and one of the most challenging themes of the contemporary city. Not only because of urban conditions but also because of historycal, social and political demands.
This preservation syndrome, sometimes leads to a overvaluation of the building structures. Age is not a warranty of architectural quality, on the contrary it is a natural process of selection. The adequacy to new and contemporary programs can be extremely liable to error. If in certain cases the possibility of adequacy is enrolled in the spatial identity of the building, in others the change of uses reveals itself inadequate, leading to an inconsistent meaning in the character of the building. Sometimes the preservation of the architecture we possess, can be, the worst manner of Destruction.
The project is part of a nationwide and governmental program – the Polis programme. The strategy was to revive cities by introducing new equipment such as the Environmental Monitoring and Interpretation Offices (EMIO) buildings. The aim was for this projects to energize the rehabilitation of the city.