Embassy of Portugal
Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil
Equipment and Infrastructures
The architectural complex of Portugal’s embassy in Brasilia (1973-1978) was designed by the architect Raul Chorão Ramalho (1914-2002) and is located in one of the main blocks housing major diplomatic missions. The chancellery project uses the “experimental” architectural language meanwhile consolidated in public buildings in mainland Portugal, the Atlantic islands and Macau. In practically all situations, climate factors were the basis for that experimentation and tireless research, as well as aspects from local cultures. In such circumstances, particular attention is drawn to the designs for façades, always conceived as ‘inhabited spaces’ in an interior/exterior dichotomy, alleviating weather effects and protecting the interior space. The blinds and grilles forming the buildings’ skin mediate the exterior effects, while the recessed window frames impose a sometimes repetitive rule of composition, like a musical scale, determining a rhythm and harmony between the planes forming the façades. Some aspects originating in ancestral Portuguese culture are reinvented and subtly included as a clear sign of continuity; these are details, citations from a greater poetry which the Portuguese have conveyed around the world over the centuries, borrowing from local cultures and then reworking them in a return-trip culture. The chancellery building contains aspects that invite a further look at the “Portuguese noble house”, including the traditional Arab tank which reflects the building’s façade, brickwork and tiles. Even the interior and exterior spaces as a direct complement are traditional Mediterranean factors “readapted“ to the climate of the plateau; the courtyard has endemic plants, mainly for shade, fostering the circulation of gentle breezes. Chorão Ramalho worked with new scales which he cleverly integrated into a long two-storey building. Yet its compositional hierarchy and expression gives the idea of a much larger building. Projecting floors, flower boxes and overhanging sun-screens in bare concrete lend those elements rhythm and dynamics, by permanently altering their expression via the shadows projected onto recessed planes. This has a direct influence on the interior, where the patios and respective concrete pergolas filter the light and control the temperature. The exterior’s powerful visual impact is also repeated inside in the works by major Portuguese contemporary artists such as João Abel Manta, Sá Nogueira and Guilherme Camarinha; the exterior boasts works by Querubim Lapa, Espiga Pinto, José Aurélio and Lagoa Henriques. The “invention” of a large-scale public/private core space is also evident in the chancellery’s large platform used to receive notable guests, also in a transition space between interior and exterior. The chancellery building of Portugal’s embassy in Brasilia surely represents one of the most vigorous and erudite moments of Portuguese modern architecture, where a universal cultural ideal is followed as a Portuguese contribution only made possible by the long accumulative process resulting from centuries of frontiers open to new contributions, new experiences, enabling testimony to always pass from generation to generation among some of the most prepared, learned and influential representatives of scientific knowledge and culture.