Monsanto, Portugal | 2017 | concept

exterior visualisation

look out point visualisation

inner sanctum visualisation

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    visualisation of the view

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    floor plan
section and front view
ground floor plan/masterplan


“The circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions.
It combines the concentric and the excentric in a single form, and in equilibrium.
Of the three primary forms, it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.”

W. Kadinski


Inspired by the shapes and volumes of the remarkable granite boulders we suggest a circular building that fits in its environment, placed partly below earth, like the boulders do. The majority of its spaces are open and only the exhibitional spaces and toilets can be locked during the night, so that the building remains accessible at any time , exactly like the ruins that surround it do, pledging respect to the natural and historical environment of Monsanto. To that, we add a landmark: a staircase that resembles a vertical route, a purifying and direct connection between the building and the Monsanto Castle.


The main concept of our design proposal is the circle, as a symbol of purity, completion and eternity. The design is based on three concentric circles and the radii that emerge from its center every 30°. The inner circle contains the functional nucleus (staircase, rest- and storage rooms), the middle circle includes the corridor that connects all the spaces and the outer circle the inner sanctum, the look-out point and the exhibitional space and history chamber, which are two seperatable spaces, able to host permanent and temporary exhibitions, independantly from the rest of the building. Although the design maintains its symmetrical character in every aspect, the front and back part represent a totally different atmosphere. The inner sanctum, located in the back part of the building is a dark and closed space, lightened only from the skylight openings, creating an ideal atmosphere for self insight and reflection. On the contrary, the look-out point located in the front part of the building is defined by its openess and forms a balcony with access to the Chapel of São João. The look-out point works as an antechamber to the breathtaking look-out point created centuries ago, the ruins of the chapel itself.

The main principle for designing the routes for our proposition is to create a nod between the existing routes and the new ones: our building. The route starting from the Historic Village and passing through the gatelike boulders ends on the top of the building. From this point one may follow the old route south leading to the castle, enter the building to get through it to the Chapel of São João, or walk direclty to the west towards the Castle of Monsanto, to find the monumental staircase that leads directly to the top of its walls. This stairway works as a multiple look-out point with its balconies and also as a cathartic route to the highest ground of the hill, thus intensifying the connection between place, memory and profound tranquility.

Participation to the Site Sanctuary competition by arkxsite.com
Architectural Concept by Kostis Benning and Lara Vartziotis