In a trifecta of history, architecture, and cultural respect, the Centre for Interpretation of Jewish Culture Isaac Cardoso, designed by Gonçalo Byrne Arquitectos, emerges as a poignant homage to Trancoso's Jewish past.
This remarkable edifice not only captures the essence of a community but serves as a dialogical space between past and present, located in the rich context of one of Portugal’s “Historical Villages.”
Divided into three distinct zones—each characterized by its unique architectural language—the city of Trancoso is a fascinating blend of the past and the present. Gonçalo Byrne Arquitectos, no stranger to the city's architecture, having been previously commissioned for several projects, chose a compact triangular ruin in the historic former Jewish quarter for this undertaking. This setting functions as a silent, yet powerful narrator, informing visitors of a lineage that stretches back to the 14th century.
The Centre occupies a strategic vantage point at the intersection of Rua do Poço dos Mestres and Travessa do Poço do Mestre. It's an architectural intervention that simultaneously blends and stands out—its acute angle opens up the field of vision along both narrow streets, making its presence subtly felt yet respectfully deferential to its surroundings.
Externally, the Centre’s construction features irregular stereotomy of granite stones, punctuated by few openings—a nod to the fortified nature of the historic city. The result is an exterior that appears to be a solid mass, harmonizing with the surrounding buildings while adding an element of gravitas.
Inside, visitors encounter spaces that evoke the feeling of "voids carved inside a large stone prism." The pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the main room, modeled after the Sephardic Synagogue. Taking inspiration from the Synagogue of Tomar, the room’s ceiling is a masterful composition of complex geometry. Skylights work in conjunction with wooden panels to filter and reflect a soft, golden light that enriches the sanctity of the space.