by Adrian Ho on Mar 20, 2014 in Architecture
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In the valley that produces exquisite Portuguese port wine, Portuguese architect Álvaro Fernandes Andrade has created a unique complex that is dedicated to top-level athletes

For centuries, the Duovo River Valley in Portugal has been famous for its production of sublime port wine, earning recognition by Unesco as a World Heritage Site — but it could soon become a cradle of world class athletes as well, thanks to the Pocinho Centre for High Performance Rowing, now perched on a terraced hillside in the region.

Developed specifically for training and preparing Olympic-level rowing athletes, the long and willowy complex is covered in clean — almost glimmering — white, subtly gliding through the markedly sloping valley of Pocinho. “We need to appreciate the various meanings contained within this place, in particular the cultural context and the landscape of the Douro River Valley,” explains Álvaro Fernandes Andrade, the architect of the project. “Of course, we also acknowledge the specific ancestral expression of man’s intervention and transformation of the landscape.”

Accommodating a total area of 8,000 sq-m, the 84-room complex features three fundamental components — zones for housing, socialising and training — and has a prospect of future expansion up to 11,500 sq-m, which would almost double the room number and serve approximately 225 users.

“The decision of structuring the programme into three distinct zones helped to place the most-used zones on the same level, minimising eventual movements between levels, something that surely will not be foreign to the history of physical and spatial transformation of the valley,” adds Andrade.

Inspired by Eskimo igloos, the structures of the housing area have been leant up against and dug into the ground, limiting the exposure of the complex’s ‘skin’. The rooftop greenery reinforces this insulation, while the rooms have skylights facing south, in search of the sun, taking into account the general northern exposure of the entire complex. The naked concrete walls of the rooms also allow for optimal storage of solar thermal energy captured through the skylights. Meanwhile, the rooms are connected by a series of fragmented corridors, which give easy access to servicing areas such as kitchenettes, social areas or laundry rooms.