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Cascais Music Conservatory, Casais, Portugal

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Conservatory fit for a concerto

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The Cascais Music Conservatory opens 

Officially inaugurated in April 14th, 2008, the new building of the Cascais Music Conservatory, also headquarters of the Cascais and Oeiras Orchestra, has opened its doors to the public.The architecture project, designed by ARX Portugal (Nuno Mateus/José Mateus), won first place in the competition held in 2003 by the City Council of Cascais. It dealt with a complex recovery of the building dated from last century, where the different "times" of its existence, as well as its ownership, are put in evidence, in a context strongly shaped by foreign, cultural and aesthetic, references.

First called 'Chalet Madalena', and later 'Pensão Boaventura', this building welcomed, especially between 1938 and 1946, guests from almost 30 nationalities, many refugees from World War II. Today, that crossing of different countries continues, this time in an array of musicians, teachers and students from several nationalities, giving a new impulse to this School.

The City of Cascais and Oeiras Music School and Chamber Orchestra headquarters stays at the old building of the Boaventura boarding house, located at downtown Monte Estoril,municipality of Cascais. It is a building from the beginning of the 20th century, intended for a single-family residence, known as "Chalet Madalena". The house fills almost the totality of the centre of the lot, which came to extend south with the purchase of the next land-lot, which in its turn was only occupied by a magnificent palm-tree field.

It was decided to preserve the existing house and its relations to the land, not so much because of its architectonical traits, which are modest, but because it obeys a characteristic typology of the Estoril area, whose specimens are being demolished and replaced by big apartment or office buildings filling the lots without leaving any room for garden areas and blocking visual interaction.

The interior of the house was totally rebuilt, respecting the cruciform typology of the original house's spatial distribution, but adapted to the actual necessities. The majority of the rooms of the new programme is small and designed for the teaching of music, individually or in small groups.

A new multi-use room is built of larger proportions and is destined for rehearsals and orchestra concerts. It was made by simply extending the stone foundations of the original house to the palm-tree field. Its geometry matches the response to the visual circumstances of the surroundings by framing the environment in an intense relation with the garden. It also secures the specific acoustic demands and allows, at the side of the lot, for the passage of a new street accessing the parking area.

The roof is now an outside balcony for leisure, a natural extension of the interior space of the old chalet, articulated with the garden.

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