Minimalist yet conspicuous – this in a nutshell defines the new Abrantes Municipal Market, a fascinating project by Lisbon studio ARX Portugal designed in the small town of Abrantes, Portugal. Envisioned as a collective space for floors of local business stalls, there is more to this white concrete enclosure than its stylish facades suggest. To that end, one of the primary purposes of this building is to connect two separate districts of the town (at different street levels), thus transforming it into a enclosed thoroughfare of sorts. Furthermore, the architects have also been able to showcase their flair for spatial efficiency, by designing the entire structure inside a narrow plot that was previously occupied by dilapidated workshops of a local bus company.
In terms of architecture, the Abrantes Municipal Market stands out amidst residential properties that are already eclectic in nature by virtue of their varied styles and dates of construction. However, the building is made even more visually striking by painting its concrete facades white and stacking the visible outer volumes in an irregular manner. This certainly imparts an essence of familiar modernity to the marketplace, while also making it the focal point of the town that can potentially attract visitors.
As for the interior credentials of the minimalist building, the staircase connecting the two districts of the town, is set along one of the edges of the building. It spirals throughout the enclosed space, and is accompanied by a connected system of angled walls, sloping walkways, translucent roof cladding, and an expansive atrium. But the most crucial section of the minimalist enclosed space arguably pertains to the alignment of the market stalls on one side of the staircase – thus incorporating this extending commercial area inside the ‘organic’ urban scope of the town. As the architects made it clear –
The new Abrantes Market is at once building and street. One can cut across, going from one street to the other, either through the stairway opened at the northern edge, or wandering between the stands and the spiral staircase located at the southern edge.