In the heart of Northern Alentejo in Portugal nestled within the tranquillity of cork and olive groves, resides an unassuming embodiment of environmental touristic ambition - the Mora River Aquarium by PROMONTORIO.
Born from the desire to pivot a delicate agrarian economy towards the flourishing sphere of ecological leisure, this aquarium ushers a new perspective on the Iberian river's biodiversity. Positioned at the confluence of two watercourses in the Ecological Wild Park of Gameiro, the aquarium forms an organic unity with its surrounding environment, ensuring an intimate engagement between its denizens and the aquatic narrative it seeks to share.
The architecture of the River Aquarium evokes the subtle equilibrium of form, function, and sustainability. Its design, dominated by a monolithic structure, shields the vibrant life inside from the Alentejo's intense sun. Thin, white pre-cast concrete porticos traverse 33 meters across, presenting a silhouette reminiscent of the region's iconic whitewashed "montes" or barns. This combination of shading and cross-ventilation systems, paired with clever water circulation, fosters a controlled environment conducive to the flourishing of both animal and plant life while simultaneously enhancing the building's ecological footprint.
Upon the building's substantial concrete foundation rests a series of self-contained programmatic boxes, each serving a unique role in the aquarium's operation. From the reception, cafeteria, to the changing exhibits hall, all coexist within an overall design that keeps the focus on the central attraction, the live exhibits. As visitors meander through the darkened exhibit halls, the architecture facilitates an immersive viewing experience, fostering a heightened sense of connection to the aquatic habitats on display. Outside, the space between the programmatic boxes and the main structure unfolds into a scenic promenade, culminating in a bridge over the lake—an additional exhibit teeming with regional fauna and flora. The River Aquarium is more than a simple building—it is a testament to the intricate symphony of design, ecology, and the transformative power of architecture.
However, the beauty of this architectural endeavor does not solely rest in the aesthetic. It serves as an ode to the very environment it is rooted in, mirroring the biodiversity and delicate balance of life in the Iberian river. The Mora River Aquarium, with its thoughtful architecture and harmonious symbiosis with nature, aims to welcome around 200,000 visitors annually, offering them an intimate view into a world often unseen but vital to our collective existence.