Project DescriptionText by Nate Berg
On the agricultural outskirts of Óbidos, Portugal, a small town about 50 miles north of Lisbon, a voided white square sits atop an undulating landscape near the intersection of Rua da Inovação and Rua da Criatividade. The square structure is the main building of the Óbidos Technological Park, a new complex of co-working offices for startups that aims to be, true to its purpose-built streets, the town’s center of innovation and creativity.
Lisbon-based Jorge Mealha Arquitecto won the city-sponsored international competition to design the project in 2010. Completed in July 2014, the 44,089-square-foot complex comprises three structures: two single-story buildings topped with a square centerpiece, which principal Jorge Mealha describes as “a thin building levitating over the ground.”
The two 11,000-square-foot first-floor buildings contact the square building at four main structural supports, each containing stairs and elevators as well as the piping, ductwork, and technical guts of the building. Two additional V-shaped concrete structures support the upper building as it projects over a central plaza bordered by the cave-like first-floor buildings and a gentle slope created from the dirt excavated to build them.
“The design strategy disguises the ground floor so you don’t see it as a building,” Mealha says. “So you don’t have the difficulty of reading two buildings with two different principles working together.”
Clad in Cor-Ten steel and covered in grass, these first-floor buildings house shops, a restaurant, a multipurpose room, and a fabrication lab for the tech companies incubating above. The square volume contains more than 60 offices, averaging 215 square feet, which are accessed by a glass-lined hallway along the building’s inside perimeter. Mealha calls this hallway a cloister, inspired by the many monasteries in the region, and it features views across to the hallway’s three other sides and into the plaza below. A membrane of lacquered and perforated steel grating wraps the exterior, giving it an almost mechanical mask. At night, internal lighting bleeds out into the surrounding landscape.
The project’s parameters called not only for facilities to nurture startups and techies, but also a new public space. “For us it was a strange question because they were asking for a main piazza in the middle of a countryside,” Mealha says. “A piazza normally results as a point of balance between the forces within the city.” Absent those forces, Mealha used differing forms to create that citylike intersection of mixed uses and building types. And as both an active space and a landmark, the building is a new center for the region.
Project: Óbidos Technological Park Main Building, Óbidos, Portugal
Client: Parque Tecnológico de Óbidos
Architect: Jorge Mealha Arquitecto, Lisbon . Jorge Mealha (principal); Andreia Baptista (coordinator); Carlos Paulo, Diogo Oliveira Rosa, Filipa Ferreira da Silva, Filipa Collot, Gonçalo Freitas Silva, Inês Novais (project team)
Structural Engineering: José Ferraz & Associados—Serviços de Engenharia e Consultoria (built project)
Electrical Engineering: António Ferreira, Pedro Ramos
Climatization: Luís Graça
Fire Consulting: Segurinis, Jorge Miranda (built project); Joaquim Viseu (base project)
Hydraulic/Acoustic/Thermal/Solar: S.E. Serviços de Engenharia
Landscape Architect: Mafalda Lavrador
Construction: MRG Engenharia e Construção
Size: 4,096 square meters (44,089 square feet)
Cost: €4.407 million ($4.735 million) including external spaces and landscape