Guaíba Bridge Memorial
“A place to admire and honor the Guaíba Bridge, the city’s postcard” – with this concept, CONCEPA (the Osório-Porto Alegre highway concessionaire) requested, through cultural adviser Fernando Schüler, a project for the Bridge Memorial which would be located on the ground floor of the Nautical Park, a modernist building with relevance for the city’s architecture. The idea, which relied on the support of DESP and Rio Grande do Sul Tourism Department, originated with a project for permanent decorative illumination at the bridge that will also turn it into a night reference in Porto Alegre.
The place chosen, however, would require a timid solution for the program’s ambition. Any new wall would interfere with the existing building’s design. The necessity of maintaining the transparence of the ground floor, however, would create complicated difficulties for the organization of the documental and photographic material the Memorial is supposed to exhibit.
After visiting the Nautical Park – which has a peculiar beauty for being in the middle of the port with a privileged view of the bridge and the islands, associating an urban work landscape with nature – and an interview with the managers, it has become clear that it would be better to go in a different direction. The availability of the underused areas also caught our attention, allowing us to invest in a bolder project to give new life to the existing building – which is undoubtedly important but is undervalued by the surroundings, since there is no other building with the same size and relevance. Even the Nautical Park, dedicated to rowing and other nautical sports, needs investments to complement the original project and new interests to finally allow its touristic potential and vocation.
Placing a Bridge Memorial in the Nautical Park, as imagined here, will be an important means of attracting people and allow new investments, like reopening the restaurant, connecting the ferryboat line to the city center and establishing a partnership with the DC Navegantes shopping mall, combining cultural leisure, sports and commerce.
The project’s basic idea includes the following intentions:
- Complete and enhance the original program for the Nautical Park – giving a new dimension to the open-air amphitheater; building the waterfront warehouse and the mooring.
- Add an observation deck with a view to the Guaíba Lake, the bridge and the Memorial, arousing people’s interest to visit it;
- Create a new and relevant design fact in that place, which will add to the bridge and the Nautical Park’s modernist building;
- Add the Bridge Memorial function from with a dynamic artistic and cultural perspective.
Developing the idea of an autonomous building for the Memorial brought a new dimension to the project: besides being a place to exhibit the collection of photos, documents, parts and models related to the history of the bridge, it should also allow visiting exhibitions and video-installations. A small conference room with a translucent back-projection screen, storerooms for the collections and services complete the Memorial design brief. Externally, the raked seating will replace the circular underused slope as an amphitheater and give access to the observation deck. This place, with wood benches made from the floor material, works as an observatory of the landscape and allows a singular view of the Memorial’s internal space. Eventually it can work as an extra space when the audience for the boat races is overcrowded.
Architecturally, the project was conceived to value the existing building, creating a counterpoint to the other side of the Nautical Park’s main dock. The new building takes advantage of the existing building size so that the two form a strong ensemble in the landscape, assisted by the dock made for the marina, which assumes a central position.
The use of a modern language with contemporary features enhances the existing work. The conceptual design uses the same elements of the existing building – columns, raked seating, overhanging slab – and its basic dimension. The difference is in the project strategy, which uses these elements freely, in line with what is established by the design brief. Consequently, the raked seating are on the floor facing the inside, forming an amphitheater. The columns support a overhanging roof, shading the observation deck instead of supporting the building.
The memorial is deliberately inward looking in order to value its collection and internal space. The atmosphere of isolation, on the other hand, can make people reflect on the quality of the surrounding landscape. This possibility of observing the landscape from a special point of view is enhanced by the periscopes (with magnifying lenses) strategically distributed on blank envelope that faces the Guaíba Lake.
The three functions of the building – memorial, bleacher seating and observation deck – are autonomous. They are, however, materially connected and create subtle but important spatial communications. The idea is to encourage multiple and permanent interests, regardless of time, schedule or functional use.
From a technical point of view, the building is very simple and easy to maintain. The exposed concrete, the wood and the glass have long service life and get old with great dignity. The location (the shores of the Guaíba Lake) and the building precautions regarding environmental comfort – suspended and ventilated floor, ventilated double walls, shade and cross ventilation – allow the prediction of a cozy internal atmosphere almost every day without the need of mechanical air-conditioning.