One day a meteorite was fired from outer space. The huge object hit the soil of Porto’s neighborhood Boavista and a new concert hall was conceived. This story was used as a metaphor for the representation of Casa da Musica; Porto’s new home for all varieties of music. As the jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize loved this idea, Rem Koolhaas was able to build his design, opening its doors in 2005. Soon Casa da Musica became the contemporary icon of the city of Porto and was praised for its intriguing dynamics. Coming from Rotterdam and being a new citizen of Porto, a nostalgic feeling aroused while visiting Casa da Musica. Wandering through the building and taking notice of its design and history, suddenly a connection with both harbor cities hit me and created a new glance on Koolhaas’ design.
A Contemporary Landscape
The Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded annually to reward a living architect with a design of work that includes those qualities of talent, vision and commitment. As well it has to contribute to humanity and the chosen environment has to be shown through the art of its architecture. While Koolhaas, with his office situated in Rotterdam, received this price in 2001 and therefore was able to realize the concept of Casa da Musica, in the same year Rotterdam and Porto both received the honor to call itself the European Cultural Capitals of Europe. This classification by the European Union generated economic benefits for both cities to change the city’s image and raise its visibility and profile on an international scale. With this designation, both cities were given the chance to develop their cultural environment. Since then, taking a look at cities contemporary architecture, Porto and Rotterdam show a strong urban movement that gives both cities an experimental and cutting-edge glance. The environment of both cities, merely populated by the working class, displays an urban landscape of contemporary architecture that represents the city’s modern side, including Koolhaas’ designs.
As the classification by the European Union highlights the richness and diversity of European cultures, Casa da Musica constitutes its own distinguishing effect. The concert hall consists of different areas, separated by colors and aspirations. These rooms, used for several events or educational activities, all refer to a certain (multi)purpose, depending on its unique color. In one of the rooms Koolhaas placed original Portuguese tiles, but with a Dutch twist as the color originally is called Delfts Blauw, which refers to a city close to Rotterdam. By adding light, glass-like materials to the walls, the heart of Casa da Musica can be seen from almost all colored rooms that show different points of view of the auditorium. This main area provides a captivating look of Porto; behind the orchestra, the public sees a huge window that displays Rotunda da Boavista in its full glory. Adding transparency to its design, a connection between the building and the city is created. Koolhaas exposed this concept in his design for the Kunsthal in Rotterdam too; an exhibition place that includes its green surroundings inside the design by building glass walls and adding greenery to its interior. Therefore Koolhaas’ style combines the interior with the external, that again creates interaction with the city, its people and the building. Being an employee of the Kunsthal for several years and visiting Casa da Musica for the first time, it made me realize in what way Koolhaas tries to interact with the design’s landscape, or in this case; urban playground. In Casa da Musica’s case, we can even take ‘playground’ to another level, like the waves that ‘the meteorite’ created in the Boavista area, seem to serve as a skatepark nowadays.
As a metaphor
Casa da Musica is a highly interesting concert hall for its design, that creates space and environment for its intellectual, creative and alternative community. Offering an inviting environment for different communities, Casa da Musica connects and combines diversities, from the inside and outside. Apart from Porto’s and Rotterdam’s lively cultural gem, both cities seem to share the explorations and different faces that Koolhaas’ designs create; an urban playground without limits or borders. By interacting with both places, I created my own dialogue and see similarities to both city’s aspirations. It makes me realize that reinventing, contemporary architecture works intriguing, while I try to shape the face of the city I am living in.