P-06 Atelier harnesses the flow of water for a museum interior

P-06 Atelier’s coherent design for the EPAL Water Museum resulted in a modernized, dynamic space.

Portuguese studio P-06 Atelier uses the content of the EPAL Water Museum in Lisbon to create a coherent, educational environment.

The first move towards the design and realization of the EPAL Water Museum was made in the 1950s, after boilers at the former Barbadinhos Steam Pumping Station in Lisbon had been demolished. The museum opened in 1987, and the initial permanent collection was on display until the end of 2013, when renovations begun. Winner of a closed competition organized by Portuguese water company EPAL was local outfit P-06 Atelier, which came up with the best solution for the redesign of an existing exhibition space for the permanent collection. The room required a total update with a focus on improved accessibility.

Designers Nuno Gusmão and Vanda Mota of P-06 Atelier embarked on the design of the exhibition space with a crystal-clear concept: a stream of moving water. ‘The idea was well received from the start, and we had total freedom to develop it further,’ says Gusmão. ‘The team responsible for the content of the room fully understood the concept, and everyone involved made a real effort to adapt the displays to our design.’

Inspired by the volume of the room, the studio aimed for a space that can be ‘read as a whole’. The organic forms of the custom-made display units and a colour scheme that ties the whole thing together – from floor to ceiling – contribute to the intended effect. A key feature is a glassless mirror that spans the ceiling. The work of architect Joaquim Candeias of Lusoscreen, this highly reflective lightweight screen not only conveys an image of flow and cyclic rhythm but also emphasizes the interactive language spoken by the space itself.

The museum’s educational programme, with its explicit focus on water, also covers the history of EPAL, Lisbon’s main water company. Along with old artefacts and touchscreen technology, infographics add to the dynamic of shared knowledge within an interactive atmosphere. 

P-06 Atelier’s coherent design resulted in a modernized, dynamic space. ‘Every project we develop,’ says Gusmão, ‘adds new layers of experience to our practice at every level. Our previous work becomes the foundation on which we build the following project.’

This article debuted in Frame #105 alongside many other inspirational interviews and projects. Find your copy here.

Photos FG+SG


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