The Melgaço Sports School is part of a campus on a rural site near a Portuguese village, close to the border with Spain, and was designed by Pedro Reis to centralise the facility's administrative, educational and social activities.
A site on the slope of the Minho River valley dictated the stepped arrangement of the building's two volumes, which are rendered in distinctly different finishes to emphasise their separate functions.
"Based on a simple and clearly articulated geometric composition," said the architect, "the design strategy was a direct response to the challenges created by an imposing topography, a limited budget and the desire to achieve a balanced integration with the surrounding landscape."
The concrete lower section, which emerges from the hillside and extends onto a flattened plateau, contains biomechanics laboratories on its bottom floor. An auditorium at the centre extends up to the ground floor level, where classrooms, offices and a multipurpose hall are also situated.
The exterior of this structure is rendered in rough concrete to anchor it against the natural backdrop of the sloping terrain.
Vertical recesses in the concrete facades incorporate narrow windows that illuminate the classrooms and laboratories, while creating a striated pattern of light and shadow on the exterior.
The concrete volume extends along the ridge of the hill before intersecting with another grassy slope.
An entrance on one side leads to a reception area facing the terrace at the rear of the building, which stretches along its entire length, and provides light and views to classrooms on the ground floor.
The white rendered box that lies along the top of the concrete volume houses further classrooms, study spaces, a library and an area with offices and meeting rooms for the professors.
Thin horizontal strips of glazing that punctuate the two long facades bring daylight into the classrooms, while an even narrower line of windows between the bottom edge of the first floor and the top of the grassy terrace brings light into the subterranean ground-floor rooms.
Giant louvres fixed below a skylight that extends along the length of the main circulation area prevent direct sunlight from reflecting off the walls of the bright white interior.
The predominantly white spaces are complemented by warm and natural wood details including furniture, doors and the flooring used in the library. Wood panelling is also applied to walls of the auditorium to give it a cosy feel and improve sound insulation.
Photography is by José Campos.
Architect: Pedro Reis
Team: Nicola Tuan, Tiago Tomas, Elisa Pegorin, Luis Ribeiro, Isabel Azevedo, Ricardo Lima
Structural engineering: ARA - Alves Rodrigues & Associados, Lda
Specialist consultants: ACRIBIA - Projectos e Desenho Técnico, Lda
Landscape design: Global2 - Inês Norton