Garagem Sul is an institution dedicated to architecture. Since 2012, it has hosted exhibitions and promoted lectures of remarkable density and reach.
It is so called because it occupies a former garage in Centro Cultural de Belém. In 2016 it hosted the exhibition “Arquitectura em Concurso”, which covered the complete history of architectural competitions in Portugal. The design of this exhibition was, appropriately, the subject of an open competition.
Our proposal starts from the idea of public space in the fundamental sense: as physical space and device for social, political and cultural interaction and development. The concept of public space seemed to us not only adequate – the intention was to show the relevance of architecture to a broad public – as pertinent – the set of architecture competitions constitutes a somewhat encyclopaedic panorama of possible futures, which is to say, projections of the society that we want (or wanted) to build.
The themes are organized in autonomous spaces accessed from a large central space. This semi-elliptical and symmetrical space in relation to the garage columns – which now form an archway – is reminiscent of a square, a forum, an agora or, fundamentally, the opening of human territory over natural territory. A long, dark passage takes the visitors from the ticket office to this central space from where the thematic spaces irradiate. The outside world stayed behind. This disconnection activates the symbolic dimension of the central space and produces an experience – in the sense expected in an amusement park. The galvanized steel combines texture and reflectivity in an ornamental, vivid, urban way.
This proposal allowed us to deepen themes that are dear to us and to elaborate a practical critique of certain ideias, as dogmatic as consensual, about the nature of exhibition spaces, and which invariably relegate them to a lower category of architecture. The jury of the competition was sceptical, and awarded the more flexible, less specific proposal.