Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown
by Charles Correa Associates

| 12 comments

Champalimaud Foundation by Charles Correa

This medical research centre in Lisbon by Indian architects Charles Correa Associates has a curved stone form with circular cut-aways.

Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

The Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown comprises two buildings, the first containing research laboratories and treatment rooms, and the second housing an auditorium and exhibition area.

Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

A central pathway crosses the site between the buildings, leading towards two monolithic stone sculptures and an outdoor amphitheatre.

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Above the pathway, a glass tubular bridge connects the two buildings together.

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Photography is by José Campos.

Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

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Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

Here are some more details from Charles Correa:


The Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown

What makes me most proud about this project is that it is NOT a Museum of Modern Art.

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On the contrary, it uses the highest levels of contemporary science and medicine to help people grappling with real problems; cancer, brain damage, going blind.

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And to house these cutting-edge activities, we tried to create a piece of architecture. Architecture as Sculpture. Architecture as Beauty. Beauty as therapy.

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And we have also attempted to use NATURE as therapy. The WATER around us. The SKY above. The healing presence of RAIN FORESTS. All these are therapies for the patients.

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Of course we have a very special site. One of astonishing Beauty – and great historic Memory.

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Norbert Schulz has written eloquently about what he calls the GENUS LOCI, the essential meaning of a site – and Architecture’s unique responsibility to express, to release, that meaning, A musician can play the same Chopin concert one evening in Tokyo and the next in Brazil and the third in Paris – with every note exactly the same.

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But not the Architect. For a building is rooted in the soil on which it stands, In the climate, in the technology, in the culture – and the aspirations! - of the society that uses it. This is why the same building cannot be repeated anywhere and everywhere in the world.

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And of course what makes this site very special is that it is the place from which 500 years ago Vasco da Gama and the other great navigators went forth on their voyages of Discovery - a perfect metaphor for the discoveries of contemporary science today.

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This is why more than 50% of the site has been given back to the city of Lisbon for its citizens to celebrate that history – without in anyway compromising the privacy of the medical activities, and vice versa. The site plan is a yang-yang pattern of interlocking spaces.

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Lastly, I am proud that this project tries to express the essential nature, the Genus Loci, of this site without resorting to erratz versions of traditional architecture.

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No, we have used throughout a Contemporary voice to express not only the truth about this site - but also to celebrate a very crucial moment (arguably the DEFINING moment) in the history of this nation.

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Project: Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown
Location: Portugal, Lisbon
Client: The Champalimaud Foundation
Purpose: Translational Centre for Brain, Eye-sight and Cancer research

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Design Architect: Charles Correa Associates
Design Team: Charles Correa, Sachin Agshikar, Manas Vanwari, Dhaval Malesha
Laboratory and Clinical design: RMJM
Architect of Record: Glintt

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Services: Vanderwell
Structure: LNM
Bridge design: Joerg Schlaich
Lighting: DPA
Landscape: PROAP
Signage: Studio Dambar

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Area: 50,000 sq. mt.
Budget: 100 million Euros

Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

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Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

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Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

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Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

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Champalimaud-Foundation-by-Charles-Correa

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  • tlka

    okay an explanation for that auditorium window please… Is it acrylic rather than glass, or is there nothing actually there? Ive never seen a glass plate that large, looks awesome.

    • xDxina

      i can confirm.. it is glass! i've been that curious too, when i was there!

    • http://www.totaldesign.me laila

      am also shocked ! can glass comes that big!

  • Hercule Poirot

    I hope the architect means yin-yang ? The yan-yang could of course explain a lot…

  • arjun

    im from india and i have seen a lot of this guys work and he is a very intelligent and articulate person. his work, well its pretty much a less refined version of what is shown above, lots of walls courts and steps, some very poetic surfaces and spaces but never intertwined with the program.
    there is practically no functional space shown above, not even the circulation spaces where one would get an idea of the journey,transitions etc.
    he is great at creating abstract spaces, lousy at making working buildings.

    • ARDUS

      Hey Arjun, your comment probably shows how lousy you are in reading plans or buildings in general. If by by 'shown above', you mean 'pictures', then you are a perfect dezeen person. keep browsing. If you can read plans, well, they are pretty clear and you can easily distinguish transition spaces, the program and the excess. And if architecture is all about making contained spaces and 'working buildings' as you mention, there remains no space for argument. And as you mentioned, you have 'seen a lot of this guys works', you probably are forgetting that he is the same person who designed the artist village in Navi Mumbai, fought with CIDCO to make the city of Navi Mumbai more transit oriented for the common man, designed the austere Gandhi Ashram, gave a new meaning to modernism in Indian context and has always been socially active to bring upfront the issues in degrading cities. And about working buildings – work with him to see how he makes them work.

  • HSoares

    is acrylic. I had a visit with the engineer responsible for the work and he talked about the problem of the large window. was done on site by a Chinese team that had many requisites such as 24-hour security in the auditorium for anyone to have access to the mode of manufacture of flat acrylic …

  • arjun

    yo Ardus, i looked through all the plans he has put up and perhaps you have misunderstood me. have you worked with charles?it seems like it based on the ardour ( hence the name???) of your response cause one of my best mates has, and i have walked through a number of his completed projects. i clearly mentioned what i liked about him but unfortunately you seem to have overlooked that part. his built works tend to follow a familiar pattern of mundane functional spaces, complemented by interesting walled courtyard spaces. most of his work has been in the public realm so he has done very little in terms of function-heavy projects and therefore his strengths in designing courtyard pavilions has been maximised.
    i also clearly acknowledged his intelligence as an individual, and as a mentor and his overall contribution to the field and to the furthering of architectural and urban issues is lofty indeed, but thats my point exactly. he has never had the ability to see his ideas carried through. cidco and navi mumbai is a huge mess, most of his projects are badly detailed . the gandhi ashram is lovely and so are a couple of other projects, but in all fairness any architect with half a brain can design a set of pavillions with little or no program. the one project that i truly admire is the kanchenjunga residential building in mumbai, and even more so cause it seems too well planned for a correa building, and lo and behold, my friend in his office told me it wasnt his brainchild. credit for that goes to pravina.

    so i have seen enough of his work and i do have a point of view based on things other than the pics above, and as far as ' a perfect dezeen person' goes , it seems your belligerent response to my opinion qualifies you, more than anyone else posting here, to fit that insular mould.

    a little restraint would be in order, and for future reference, if you want someone to listen to what you have said or written, try not to berate them right at the start.

    • ARDUS

      Hi Arjun, I apologize for reacting the way i did. About the name – those are just my initials.
      Your 'Buildings which don't work' comment took me right back where every small detail took a days effort to resolve. Your friend must have mentioned how it works! Again, 'unable to get the ideas through' – that is the struggle of every intelligent and prominent architect in India- the sociopolitical interventions which subdue the efforts. You start your comment with 'I am from India and i have seen a lot of this guys work' to make a very specific viewpoint. I like that you do have an opinion which has both positive and negative views on his work. The problem is that you fail to achieve a poise where you balance your opinion, leaning it on the negative side without a relevant argument.
      In comment above, you mention, 'Most of his works are badly detailed' and that 'Any half-brained architect can build a Gandhi Ashram' – again you make a statement with no grounds. For people like Charles, Doshi, Hasmukh Patel, Gurujeet Singh etc., 'details' are what lead to a good building. Their work is never a mere hallucination of some idea. I am not underestimating your vision, but if you carefully look at the smallest details in these buildings, you see the amount of effort put in to make them 'well detailed' and not 'badly detailed'.
      I am not here to defend Charles. I would just try and suggest that a good critic wouldn't comment the way you did in the first place. The 'images above' comment from my side was relevant only to the 'project above' and not your overall understanding of his work or architecture in general. Everyone is free of course, to have their opinions. Moreover, you are not the only person who feels the way you do about the work of CCA. . Sorry again if I offended you.

  • Gavan

    I like the semi-open auditorium :)

  • Sophia

    I was interested to read all of your comments. I visited Champalimaud in May curious to see, experience and understand what appeared in photographs and a documentary as quite a new, exciting and very beautiful design for a health care space. I am a doctor who is in the process of designing and building a new Oncology complex. Having had a very keen interest in the therapeutic effect of architecture and long been aware of the pivotal importance of how the environment interacts with a patient and those sharing that space, I wanted to see how the needs of those within have been translated into the architecture of a new design. There is no doubt, it's a beautiful structure with some wonderful craftsmanship. It is impressive, fits the environment of its site, even if i do find it a little cold with a sense of isolation at times. I must say however, what is evident is that the architectural brief was put together not by a clinician – some very basic and fundamental mistakes were made: for example a Zen garden that is entirely open to the sun and elements intended for use by chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients. Anybody remotely aware of this patient group will know that they MUST NOT be exposed to direct sunlight, need to wear strong sunblocks hats etc. so in some ways, seems like a little bit of a cruel joke in many ways to be offering this potential and snatching it away from them. When i mentioned this, they seemed rather shocked and surprised, clearly not being aware of this. The immensely beautiful and impressive internal garden space already in May was like a total greenhouse, trapping the heat and creating a potentially very uncomfortable greenhouse effect that i find it hard to imagine sick and frail patients will feel comfortable sitting in (nor staff or visitors for that matter) there for very long. Similarly the outdoor amphitheatre, a piece of beautiful looking geometrical design has no covering or shading and even in May weather, within 3-4 mins we were all sweating and feeling the burning sensation of our skin. I wonder how useful such a space can be when it rains? Seems such a shame. In general, I was told on asking that the spaces were built without knowing who exactly was going to be housed there, which teams, how many people and what the population needing to be catered for would be. To be honest i was shocked! I was told that the teams would probably end up fighting it out for their chosen spaces! After a lot of discussion, what i realized was the following: a lot of money with a lot of good intention was available. A needs assessment established what areas humanity needed help with and money channeled into such a project without there being a true population of patients creating the initial need to begin with from which i find it astonishing that an architect can consider coming up with a design to meet the purposes. More importantly to me is the fact that there seems to be some very basic lack of understanding of what the PATIENTS' needs or experience when sick is – the research labs are phenomenal, state of the art, cutting edge – if i were researching, i'd want to be there. But the clinical areas, the areas dependent on understanding humanity's experience when sick, vulnerable, anxious, in pain, in fear just seemed to be lacking which i find a shame. But it certainly offers a very exciting step-forward in architectural design for health care spaces which, in my opinion, until now, have done much to depress, worsen the condition of patients and staff and create a general feeling of abdicated humanity in their consideration.

  • arhiprofesor

    I am just back home after a 5 days visit to Lisbon. I didn't knew anything about this complex because I do not have time to look daily for sites like dezeen. I discovered the Correa's complex with a great satisfaction. Finding myself in this in-between space, looking to the river I felt myself like being somewhere in the future, with those two columns in front of me like a stargate to an unknown space, and this sphere down in the water like a planet waiting for me. All these curved walls playing a savant game of shapes interlocking in my mind were staying there so pure and strange in the same time … those big holes like eggs of a new world which stay to be born … I was almost covered by tears, so big was the emotion. This is ARCHITECTURE !!! New universe filled with emotion !!! And I dared to ask to the girl from reception desk to allow me to go inside to see the inner garden, telling her I am architect and professor. Probably seeing my tears she immediately agreed and was so kind to invite me to see all the building. This inner garden is like an Eden from where the new world I felt is to be born will initiate. A kind of jungle, very well ordered and clean, kept inside, out of the real world, (our world) and outside the abstract, unreal, pure and solemn architecture of walls. And the three eggs = holes making the link … Beautiful !!! The building is perfectly functional, I assure you. But who cares !? I spent many significant moments in Lisbon but if it was only for this visit it would be enough for me. I left this place full of knowledge. Thank you Master Charles Correa.