High Performance Rowing Centre
The Pocinho High Performance Rowing Center, with its constructed 8.000 in a 25.00m2 site, gives shape to a recent architectural program: facilities for training Olympic level athletes. Digging deep in its specific geographic, social and cultural "landscapes", we have try to freeze the "time and space" of the delicate balance of the wide variety of factors in the play.
Conceptually the solution draws deep in two ancestral ways of inhabiting Douro valley. On one side, the agricultural stepped terraces, that are the long lasting trademark of the region. On the other, the large wineries that, built over long and different times, have acquired complex compositions of white walls and volumes.
Like a long planned wine blend, we have try to put this two "grape varieties" interacting in ways such that the all could signify more than the mere addition of each of the parts, but without losing their individual personalities in the process.
Regarding the specificity of the architectural project, this difficult "translation" was, very intentionally, not mimetic. If in certain views the room volumes could easily be mistake with those old stepped schist terraces, its contemporary reinterpretation screams his artificiality with the continuous cuts of facing north windows and facing the south sky clerestories. Both emphasized by the artificial light in the Douro valley long nights. The windows inviting the distant landscape to accompany the long hours of study (the majority of the Olympic athletes are in scholar ages). The clerestories seeking the south light, for luminous comfort and passive heating and, as a desired bonus, putting the distant night stars in every bed pillow.
In the higher lands, with the most impressive views, the Social Area seeks the quiet, relaxing and majestic landscape.
In the bottom, the Sports Area, where the Gymnasium turns its back to this omnipresent landscape, and focuses for the needed energy in the tectonic telluric of the hearth of schist.
In the middle, semi-buried in the ground and built in bare concrete, the individual room cells. Just served by narrow and low window (placed at a "seat study height"), and a high and dreaming skylight. Mix of Living, Contemplation and Rest spaces, in the bosom of Mother Nature.
A long corridor connects physically all the three parts. Like the old paths, that cuts through the terraces down towards the river; this corridor meanders the steep slope, seeking the smoothest way. For those that cannot directly profit of this, very difficult, smoothest way (rowing is one of the sports where there are more Paralympics athletes), lifting platforms guard the place for an outdoor funicular, which arrives as soon as there is the necessary budget.
With active systems mainly determined by different legislations the architectural form and concept merges with passive sustainability options.
In the areas of the more quiet activities (seating, studying, sleeping ) the volumes are semi-buried in the ground, looking to reduce exposed (architectural) skin, so that there could not only be a decrease in the thermal exchanges, but also a gain in the thermal inertia. The "south" facing skylights assists this thermal inertia, by exposing the inner bare concrete walls to the south sun, acting as a passive heater, shaded in the sun.
In the more active human activities (living, mingling, eating, playing and, most of all, training) the white walls reflect the merciless summer Douro s sun, with the assistance of a complex constructive system with multiple layers that defines ventilated walls and roofs. The complex form, more that any architectural whim, not only structure the internal spaces, but also allows passive sun shade in the summer, and direct sun exposure in winter