Luís Pedro Silva’s Leixões Cruise Terminal: A Grand Gateway into Porto, Portugal

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Since April 2011, this new pier designed by Luís Pedro Silva has received glamorously large cruise ships from the worldwide cruise fleet, boosting the cruise tourism in the North of Portugal region. Some of its guests are cruise ships of larger dimensions, up to 300 meters long. At first glance, it resembles a ribbon lying on the beach. To create the iconic curving forms, the architect worked with the project’s territorial context rather than simply seeking a display of formal prowess.

The terminal is a fantastic play of levels that unrolls from triple to quadruple volumes spaces down to the sea level. A helical ramp connects the internal functions within a quadruple height space. This interior circulation connects to three external arms going down to the seaside, the departure level and thirdly to the elevated walkway towards the beach.

The main building shelters the cruise ship terminal, marina facilities, the Science and Technology Park of the Sea of the University of Porto, event rooms and a restaurant. It is a trailblazer design for modern architecture that is able to achieve commercial efficiency and a better urban integration as a public facility. It reveals no openings towards the beach, declaring a mysterious blind façade to anyone approaching it. It faces towards the jetty to welcome arrivals. This definitely sets it apart as a gem of the sea, not land.

The facility integrates a reflecting pool at the core of the main building. This water feature brings the sea into the building in addition to a central atrium that is a tourist attraction in itself. This powerful oval drum forms its main volume.

The surface treatment for walls is an intriguing part of the indoor experience of the guests. At first instance, one would easily link the pattern to fish scales, with the curving walls resembling the easy-curving frame of a fish. This exploration of texture appeals to visitors, inviting the look and the touch. Luís Pedro Silva worked with local manufacturers to develop these hexagonal ceramic tiles that are rotated, tilted and interconnected to clad the building. This is a modern continuation of  the Portuguese tradition of painted-tile facades. “They give the building a human scale,” he says.

Colour is a delicate matter in architecture. Some architects are zealous about variety and pomp colour schemes that create vigorous public spaces. Some, like Luís Pedro Silva, have mastered the art of creating the same invigorating experience using geometry, texture, play with levels and breath-taking views.

Project Information
Architects: Luís Pedro Silva Arquitecto
Location: Matosinhos, Portugal
Client: APDL – Administração dos Portos do Douro, Leixões e Viana do Castelo, SA ( + University of Porto)
Area: 17,500 Square Meters
Project Year: 2015
Photography: Fernando Guerra | FG+SG
Manufacturers: Sika, Cement Design

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