This international architecture ideas competition entry presents the idea for the design of a Site Temple located at the Vera Cruz da Figueira Fortress in Algarve, Portugal.
Fortress of Vera Cruz da Figueira is a breathtaking, scenic place where powerful ocean waves break against the cliffs of the Algarvian coast. Unfortunately, due to erosion and destruction throughout the centuries it is impossible nowadays to fully reconstruct its original shape. The only reminiscence of what it used to be is a collection of crumbling walls resting on the landscape. Although they don´t delimit a defined space anymore, they still interact with each other in a very strong, dynamic way.
By overlapping the historical plans with the site plan of the intervention we were able to understand that the original artillery battery collapsed into the sea together with a cliff edge supporting it. Due to this fact, we decided to localize the principle building of the site temple precisely on this location. The intention of the project is not to reconstruct the fortress, but to give a tribute to what it used to be and to respectfully add upon the compelling geometry of the existing complex. That is why our site temple preserves the ruins by leaving them untouched and carefully inserts 3 new walls into this dynamic set.
The walk through the site temple starts with a spiritual journey, descending stairs along the new wall into an underground space that prepares the spectator for a shift of ambient. The opening in the ground invites the spectator for a further discovery. While entering deeper into the ground, one finds himself in a dark underground corridor to finally enter into the temple. The entrance hall of the temple – space of relief – presents itself as a wide opening, giving comfort after an underground walk and preparing for further reflection. A misplaced interior wall, together with natural rock formation, creates a narrow passage to the final contemplation space.
The temple is contained within a volume, emerging from the cliff, with an open view to the ocean, conscientiously framed by a new, massive wall distanced from it by a ray of light and line of water. The contemplation space gives perfect conditions to focus, providing shelter from the sun, wind and rain, but still stimulating the senses of sight, smell and touch.
The line of water in the temple not only distances the wall from the volume but also intensifies the ocean´s impact by reflecting it and inviting it deeper into the temple. The spacious contemplation space contains a simple bench positioned in front of a precisely limited opening in the wall. This sculptured opening crops and directs the view right below the horizon, to focus solely on the dynamism of the ocean water, its force, movement and the way it reflects the light at us, making us reflect upon ourselves. The roof of the temple serves as a viewpoint platform giving the never seen before perspective to admire the limitless of the ocean.