Raio Palace, Misericórdia de Braga interpretation centre
Refurbishment of a 1752 baroque palace (authorship assigned to the architect André Soares), for instalation of the interpretation centre of Misericórdia de Braga institution.
The centre will show the spoils of Santa Casa in its different areas: painting, sculpture, furniture, hospital equipment, vestments, ecclesiastical implements and textiles. Open since 2015. Free entrance.
The methodology at the planning stage involved studying the original characteristics of the building, preliminary documentary research, a preliminary report on conservation and restoration, and inspection of wooden structures and ma- sonry. These studies enabled us to understand the original morphology of the palace.
In terms of architecture, the conceptual strategy proposed restoring the structural, spatial and artistic characteristics of the palace.
In order to do so, elements of the building, which had survived
the successive interventions in the palace were reinstated and preserved. Where this was not possible, modern building solutions were employed, but these always respected the spirit of the original design, demolishing all partition walls ad- ded over the years.
We hoped to consolidate, reinforce and bring harmony to all features of heritage interest, without replicating missing ele- ments, accepting the passage of time and their disappearance. The interpretation centre aims to exhibit the artistic treasu- res of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Braga, which include many works of religious art, ranging from textiles to painting, sculpture and carving, gold and silverwork. A total of around 200 pieces are earmarked for inclusion in the museum.
Studies were carried out on the building systems and tech- niques used during the original construction of the palace. Elements of the palace which still had potential for restora- tion were identified, as were the techniques added throu- ghout the life of the building. Research was then carried out into modern techniques which appeared compatible with the existing building, in terms of its formal, physical and chemical characteristics, humidity, and other factors.
The structural systems of floor panels and roofs, composed of solid wood beams and slats, were preserved wherever possible. Where it was not, a combination of wood and ce- ment was used (wooden laminate beams, plywood and rein- forced screed), in order to create a compatible material, which behaves in exactly the same way as the original.
The walls and external cladding are plastered with lime-based mortar (Diera RV Cal Base Pro) and finished with silicate mineral paints (Diera Antiqua). A yellow ochre shade was chosen, complimenting the natural colour of the stonework as well as the characteristic bright blue main facade of the palace.
The roof will be made of red ceramic Marseille roof tiles (Ad- vance Lusa by Umbelino), with a ventilated roof system (breathable waterproof membrane, battens and counter-battens filled with 80mm wool insulation, resting on a continuous OSB panel). Stamped copper was used on the roof of the new area.
The external window frames, like the originals, are made of solid wood painted white, and are now double glazed, with weathering steel thresholds and sills. Aluminium window fra- mes will be used in the new areas, in order to distinguish the
new and old windows.
The metal balcony guards are simple in design, with vertical rods, intersected by horizontal bars at the top and bottom. They will be painted with wrought iron enamel paint in old gold (Cin Cinofer).
On the ground floor, natural stone flooring is maintained, in this case granite from Alpalhão, with skirting made from the same material, respecting the original dimensions.
On the upper floors, 22cm New Riga solid wood flooring was used. All internal walls are plastered with lime-based mortar (Diera RV Cal Reabilita), stuccoed (Diera TC Estuque Reabilita) and painted using silicate mineral paints (Diera Antiqua).
The ceilings will, for the most part, be made of wooden supports and painted white, replicating the “masseira” vaulted ceilings of the grand halls of the palace (which have, however, been removed).
Urban integration, landscaping and harmonisation with the surroundings
Though the plans submitted only focus on the area surroun- ding the palace, they already foresee an overarching con- ceptual strategy for the renovation of S. Marcos Hospital, in terms of accessibility, sustainability and multiplicity of paths, both on foot and by car.
Initially, in 2014, the perimeter of the palace was not acces- sible to vehicles due to the gateways, covered areas, railings and infrastructure remaining from its former use as a hospi- tal. Respecting the conceptual principles of the building, the whole surrounding area was landscaped in order to highlight the palace and let it shine. The bitumen and cement paving, laid in sections, will be replaced with granite slabs. The sur- face area will be greatly extended and landscaped in a way, allowing visitors to make full use of the space, which will mer- ge seamlessly into the future garden of the projected hotel. The new external staircase, built on the southern boundary of the site, marks the change in level between this and the neighbouring site, as well as improving access to the old hos- pital complex. The relocation of the Granjinhos fountain to the palace site, a decision made during previous works, was an excellent way of enhancing the landscaping of the site. It transforms the feel of the western courtyard of the building, adding definition to the space.