Mértola crowns a hill delimited by Guadiana and Oeiras river, which takes a strategic domain position in the territory. The existing road network from the roman period and the various river connections, allowed comercial trades that made a rich combination of cultural, architectural and constructive influences, still visible in the urban structure of the village. Examples are the intramural set, «porta da ribeira» building, the Clock Tower(Torre do Relógio) and the River Tower (Torre do Rio) – starting point for the design of this project.
The reflection on the reflection on the implantation of the site gallery began with the primary objective of maintaining respect for the place, the protection of heritage and consistency of the existing image of the village. Then, it was concluded that with the implantation of the new gallery on the opposite river Bank, traces of the fortified dock of which there are only six carved tides, evoked a clear dialogue between the existing, reviving the historical memory of the Roman passage that existed in this same place to cross the river.
The museum route starts also in the village and converges to the river tower whether to give birth at Largo da Misericórdia, or the Clock Tower. The paths that connect these two sites to the River Tower are part of the Sculptures Garden envisaged, establishing a constant visual relationship between the gallery which culminates in the river crossing by boat where the riverbed is shorter.
The implantation on the opposite river bank combines itself potentialities that are not provided in the initial program: the possibility of obtaining privileged views to Mértola, simplifying the acess to the museum and the appreciation of the two banks of Guadiana River throught a river route linking the Museum which recovers the past road link and the old port to the Mediterranean Sea.
The new art gallery arises to connect the community of both sides through the ruins and the Guadiana river to contemporary art and the surrounding environment of Mértola.
Its development on the opposite side of the village takes advantage not only of the visual relationship with the immediate environment but the ease of acess, It can be entered by the upper patio or by the river in a lower level. The museum can be crossedd even if there is nothing exposed, alloing an independent public acess behind the stairs of the gallery.
Inside are visible atmospheres resulting from local building architectural influences such as the pillars forest of Mértola mosque (now converted in a Christian Church). The exhibition rooms do not look abroad in order to concentrate the visitors in the exhibited works. The capture of a diffuse natural light was also necessary for the exhibition program and was solved with deep skylight chapiters. The access to the gallery can be transformed throughout the year during the different seasons. In the warm season, when the water level is lower allows the boat arrival to the interior; in the cold season with the rise of the water level, the boat access is not possible, so the gallery can only be visited from the high quota by land access.
– Patio / administration : space preparing to enter the museum by land. It contains the technical area and management of the gallery.
– Shop / bookstore : balcony on the large showroom allowing eye contact to anticipate the entry in the gallery.
– Exposition room : closed with small light leaks on the roof invites the visitors to an abstraction and involvement with the works exhibited.
– Flat top roof : privileged public space contact with the landscape enhances cultural activities open to the community at large.
– Anchorage : privileged link between the museum and the river. Enables the approach of experience to the museum across the river as did the old port implanted and the River Tower on the opposite bank.