The Chamaplimaud Centre for the Unknown is located in the Belém district of Lisbon, where the Tagus River flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Its location is of particular historical significance, being the place from where Vasco da Gama and the other great Portuguese pioneers set sail to discover the ‘unknown’ in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The purpose of the multidisciplinary research centre is to leverage this historical heritage by creating a link between the discoveries of yesteryear and new scientific research in the fields of neurosciences and oncology.
The facilities covering a built-up area of 50000 sqm have been disaggregated into 3 buildings, creating between them a generous public plaza that leads diagonally across the site towards the Atlantic Ocean.
And as one walks up the gently sloping plaza, all you see ahead is the sky. The enigmatic sky — the ultimate Unknown.
Then gradually you become aware of the two monoliths, each 15 meters tall that announce the climax of the whole axis.
But even when you finally arrive there, you do not see river or ocean — but a body of water, in which is partially submerged an enigmatic object, like a jelly fish. What is it? The back of a turtle? An island?… It is what you set out to discover.
As can be seen in the Site Plan, more than half the site has been given back to the citizens of Lisbon — and the public domain of this plaza and the private domain of the scientists are arranged in a kind of ying-yang interlock, so that both activities can exist without disturbing each other.
The patients, doctors, and scientists look out into large courtyards and terrace gardens, at different levels — while the plaza connects at several places to the wide public promenade along the river front.
The 3 units that constitute the project (the largest for the doctors and scientist, the second for the theatre, the exhibition hall, the Foundation offices, etc, and the third is an open-air amphitheater for the city) have been arranged to create a 125m long pathway leading diagonally across the site, towards the open seas.
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Architect: Charles Correa Associates
Project Team: Charles Correa, Sachin Agshikar, Manas Vanwari, Dhaval Malesha
Area: 50,000 m2
Client: The Champalimaud Foundation
Photographs: José Campos, arqf architectural photography