MORA – A disused train station and accompanying warehouse have been renovated into a museum for megaliths and prehistoric monuments in central Portugal. The country ranks in top place for the world’s most saturated concentration of megalithic remains and the town of Mora – and its wider region of Evora – is well known for its archaeological findings. Lisbon-based firm CVDB Arquitectos addressed the repurposing of the old railway station with care and consideration towards the building’s original 1908 design.
The Interactive Megalithic Museum of Mora aims to be a ‘local and national reference, and an important asset to the cultural regeneration of the town,’ says the architect. Looking at the smooth, white façade of the completed renovation, it’s difficult to believe that the buildings were inherited by the architect in such a state of disrepair.
As well as incorporating the two existing structures, the site has been expanded with two further volumes (a cafe and main exhibition space); subtle and barely noticeable as new additions, instead blending in as though they have been there all along. This was the explicit approach taken by the firm in order to protect the memory and the specific, traditional features of the original buildings and be respectful to the history of the place.
One obvious touch of modernity, however, is the ribbon of white, lacquered-aluminium panels that encloses the northern perimeter of the site. Forming a perforated walkway, the patterned, metal sheets create a physical link between the four individual building volumes.
Materiality plays a fundamental role in the success of the renovation. ‘We tried, as much as possible, to use original materials and construction techniques compatible with the existing buildings,’ the architect comments. ‘The presence of timber is a characteristic feature of this type of architecture. The roof was rebuilt according to its original design and we decided to extend the use of timber to the furniture and the main exhibition space.’ The primary exhibition space – crafted from cut sheets and arranged in a topographic style representation of the region’s archaeological importance – is now a contemporary intervention that brings the site back to life 30 years after the railway was closed down.