A Portuguese military site, reimagined as a coastal conservation center, has taken top honors in this year’s Architecture for Humanity Open Architecture Challenge. The theme of the competition, [UN]RESTRICTED ACCESS, called on architects and designers worldwide to identify retired military installations in their own backyard, and to collaborate with local stakeholders to reclaim these spaces for the greater social, economic, and environmental good. The Challenge Winner in the competition, announced on August 1, is the Ocean & Coastline Observatory (OCO) slated for Caminho da Raposeira Estrada Militar, a decommissioned battery in Trafaria.
Trafaria is is located on the estuary of the Tagus River, on the opposite shore from Lisbon, once a strategic area for the military protection of the Portuguese coastline. Trafaria’s Coast Artillery Regiment 5th Battery was built back in the days when heavy cannons were the weapon of choice, and battery’s concrete walls and iron slabs — with simple stonework in the eaves, stairs, windows and doors openings — were built to last.
The battery also happens to be located in the Costa da Caparica Fossil-Cliff Protected Landscape, 1570 hectares extending along the coast — which led the Lisbon Architecture Collective to re-interpret this military installation as a battery for coastline protection. By imagining it as a center for defending the coast against against environmental threats, the design aims to supervise the sustainable preservation of the coast while helping to preserve heritage.
“More than an economic asset,” the design team said, in their statement, “the ocean…defines our identity.” The designers reimagine the old military compound as a place where different area communities (including residents, scientists, researchers, fisherman, sportsmen and students), can meet and share their concerns, plans and ambitions for the coastline...