contemporary portuguese and islamic art gallery
Mertola’s fabric stands as a collage of history, a heritage of shifting and mixing cultures. The new gallery inserts itself into this landscape, extending and continuing its rich timeline. A long wall appears to retain the steep hillside; it brings the white plaster facades and Moorish arches of Mertola into a contemporary form and introduces a welcoming program and space outside of the city walls. Along the wall interior and above the floodplain, a circulation spine slices through the earth, paralleling the historic footpath and bringing visitors to the River Tower. This new path connects to Mertola’s market traditions: the rhythmic roof structure filters light through a continuous skylight, much like the scrims above a Souk, while a series of perpendicular walls define the galleries and conjure associations of a Souk’s stalls. As the building interior steps down the hillside, it guides visitors on a pilgrimage, passing through the present and descending towards the past. It brings viewers to arrive finally at a large framed view of the Torre do Rio Piers at the end of the contemporary gallery, establishing a new relationship to the ruins and the river, re-framing their history.