MAAT, the new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology, is an outward-looking museum located on the banks of the Tagus in Belém, the district from where the Portuguese great explorers set off.
Proposing a new relationship with the river and the wider world, the kunsthalle is a powerful yet sensitive and low-slung building that explores the convergence of contemporary art, architecture and technology. The new building is the centrepiece of EDP Foundation’s masterplan for an art campus that includes the repurposed Central Tejo power station. Incorporating over 9,000m² of new public space and blending structure into landscape, the kunsthalle is designed to allow visitors to walk over, under and through the building that sits beneath a gently expressed arch. During the first year of opening, MAAT welcomed over 500,000 visitors, making it more popular than any public Portuguese museum.
The facade of the MAAT museum continued AL_A’s ongoing research into new uses and reinterpretations of ceramics. The textured façade is composed of almost 15,000 three-dimensional crackle-glazed tiles manufactured by Ceràmica Cumella, which capture the changing light and give mutable readings of the exceptional southern light that vary with the time of day and the seasons.
The development of the tiling and modulation evolved hand in hand with the surface of the façade. The challenge was to find a simple, affordable solution that would adapt to the surface and still recreate all the reflections and play with light and shadow that we envisioned. The solution had to address the budget and it was evident that it had to be based on a modular system made out of few tile types as the cost of the moulds or other CNC manufacturing processes would be restrictive. We looked at several grid alternatives, the solution arose with a split hexagonal grid as it could adapt easily to the ruled surfaces and to the areas of transition composed of a gentle double curvature. By creating a 3D tiling system, it allowed us to articulate the façade in a way that we could reflect light in different directions and easily accommodate to the surface geometry. Light is reflected not just from the sky but also the water. The change of the sun allows different kinds of shadows and as the day progresses, the appearance of the building changes. The overhanging of the façade also creates lighting effects both inside and out, capturing and magnifying the unique light qualities of this south facing site and the continually changing conditions.
By rotating the adjacent modules through 180 degrees against each other, we achieved a sequence of tiles which recreate the undulating effect of the surface of the water. This articulation creates shadows that will continuously change throughout the day, acting as a sundial, with dramatic effects and long shadows cast by the sunrise and sunset.
The ceramic façade system developed for MAAT was the first of its kind to obtain a full certification by LNEC (Laboratorio Nacional de Engenharia Civil). Throughout the certification process the ceramic tiles and their fixing systems underwent a series of exhaustive testing that have set new standards in Portugal.
The type of clay used was extremely important. There are very harsh weather conditions close to the waterfront, so we had to study the clay and the temperature that it had to go in the kiln. The resultant tile enables sufficient movement within the overall geometry of the façade. The selected clay mix is a “Gres”, also known as stoneware, a semi-vitreous ceramic. The base clay is primarily composed of two types of clay, one siliceous and the other silico-aluminous, with kaolin and other pale coloured mineral crystals then added to whiten the base mix. The selection of this clay was critical to ensure the success of the complex fabrication of the three-dimensional tiles. The base mix had to have the right balance of plasticity and consistency before firing, and the optimum porosity and mechanical and chemical resistance after firing.
They were covered with a layer of engobe. The engobe we developed for this project is composed of Ball clay, Kaolin and other minerals including ilmenite, a titanium-iron oxide mineral which is the main ore for titanium. The ilmenite produces a speckled metallic effect that can be seen when you are at close range.
The engobe is an under layer to control the base colour of the tile before applying the glaze. The selection of the glaze was an important piece of investigation as the chemical reactions and their visual impact were at many times unknown. Through a process of trial and error, Cumella managed to discover what the optimum glaze was to ensure the glossiness and transparency required. The other critical factor was to ensure the consistency of the crackled effect we desired in each tile. In order to achieve this, the glaze had to have a high expansion coefficient so that the sudden change in temperature would induce the crackled effect. From this, we developed three different types of tile for the facade.
Fundação Energias de Portugal (EDP)
Fernando Ruiz Barberan, Mirta Bilos, Alex Bulygin, Grace Chan, Sara Ortiz Cortijo, Alice Dietsch, Ciriaco Castro Diez, Yoo Jin Kim, Ilina Kroushovski, Michael Levy, Cristina Revilla Madrigal, Stanislaw Mlynski, Ho-Yin Ng, Giulio Pellizzon, Raffael Petrovic, Chloe Piper, Filippo Previtali, Arya Safavi, Maria Alvarez-Santullano, Joe Shepherd, Paula Vega, Konstantinos Zaverdinos.
Afaconsult, Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture, SEAM Design
Design Prize 2017
Shortlist EU Mies van der Rohe Prize 2017
Winner Architecture Best of Best Iconic Award 2017
Finalist World Architecture Festival 2017
ECCS Steel Design Award of Merit 2017
Highly Commended Blueprint Awards 2017
Finalist Tile of Spain Awards 2017
Honorable Mention Valmor Prize and Municipal Architecture 2017
Best Museum Architecture
Leading Cultural Destination Awards 2017
Supreme Winner and Public Building category Winner Surface Design Awards 2018