Portimão’s theatre project back on track

news: Portimão’s theatre project back on track

A PROJECT worth six million euros to build a new municipal theatre on the site of the Palácio Sárrea Garfeas (old courthouse) in Portimão, has been the subject of controversy in recent weeks, but, according to the câmara, the criticism is unwarranted. The council cites “incomplete information and false assumptions” as the reasons for the negative reports.

Long history

There was an undoubted fondness, among local residents, for the attractive old building, which dated back to the end of the 18th century, despite its poor state of repair. Located in Largo 1º de Dezembro, it began its life as a family home and, years later, became the town hall. More recently, its use was as a courthouse and, after ceasing to serve this function, the câmara acquired the property.

Although not a listed building, its beautiful and unique façade was much admired and, therefore, when the theatre project was given the go-ahead, it was confirmed that the building’s original frontage would be kept.

However, The Resident has learned that the entire building was bulldozed to the ground last month, a happening that has surprised the community and attracted negative comment.

Câmara defends


Portimão Câmara has defended its decision to demolish the old building, however, declaring it “unfortunate but unavoidable”. Pedro Poucochinho from the Câmara President’s office told The Resident: “A series of detailed technical studies were carried out and, unfortunately, the earlier ones did not reveal the seriousness of the disrepair.

The structure’s level of fragility and unsafe condition only became evident at a later stage. So many problems were identified that, despite all efforts to retain the building’s original frontage, it became clear that this was not going to be viable.” He continued: “A meeting was held with the Instituto Português de Arqueologia (IPA), which confirmed that, despite its beauty, the building was not classified and, after much discussion and analysis of the case, it was agreed that the entire building would be pulled down.”

Exact replica

to be made

The good news, though, is that an exact replica of the Palácio’s original façade is now going to be built. The câmara informed us that experts painstakingly took hundreds of detailed photographs and mouldings of the original frontage and some stones and materialsFrom page 1

were also kept. The construction of an authentic reproduction is, therefore, clearly being taken very seriously.

Differences of opinion

The studies began on the theatre back in 1996 and, from the beginning, there were differing opinions on the project. It was the general view within the council that Portimão desperately needs a theatre, but there was much disagreement over its proposed location.

Many believed it was essential to locate the theatre in the town centre, as it would help boost the local economy and contribute to the image of Portimão’s nucleus. It would also provide a use for the empty building and a reason to restore this unique piece of local heritage. Others preferred the option of constructing a brand-new building on the outskirts of the city.

Those who backed this option have been “crowing” over the problems experienced with the old building, but perhaps the critics will be silenced later this year, when the building is expected to be finished. The construction is being partly financed by European Union funding (50 per cent), which is another reason, perhaps, for the project being put under such great scrutiny. The new theatre, which has been designed by renowned Portuguese architect, Troufa Real, will boast a capacity of 700 seats on two levels (stalls and balcony), and will play host to a variety of theatrical and dance productions, as well as concerts.

The interior has been created by the famous national designer, Daciano da Costa, who is now approaching the end of a long and very distinguished career, having been responsible for such high profile Lisbon projects as the Centro Cultural de Belém and the famous Gulbenkian Grand Auditorium.

Poucochinho concluded his comments by saying: “Daciano da Costa was able to draw on his vast experience to produce a design that is really exceptional, so I am certain that the theatre is going to be something very special.” Caroline Cunha