MAAT Effect

BY Polly Sweet / Feb 19 2017 / 14:30 PM

The opening of the brand new Museum of Art Architecture and Technology is this year’s most significant design event, writes Polly Sweet

MAAT Effect
Paulo Coelho, courtesy of EDP Foundation
An exterior view of MAAT. Photography by Paulo Coelho, courtesy of EDP Foundation

This Autumn, the design community gained a new home in the form of MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) a 38,000 square-metre campus set on the banks of the Tagus River in Belem, Lisbon. Situated on an historical site from which Portuguese explorers once set off to discover the world, MAAT will explore contemporary culture through a series of mediums including architecture, science and technology as well as the visual and expressive arts.

Consisting of two buildings linked by a vast outdoor garden, MAAT is set to be unveiled in four separate phases. Phases 1 and 2 are already complete, with the former Tejo Power Station galleries renamed and reconfigured earlier this summer and, on the 5 October, the brand new kuntshalle revealed. Built by British architecture firm Al_A, headed up by 'starchitect' Amanda Levete, the kuntshalle houses four separate gallery spaces and an abundance of public areas and forms the focal point of the whole campus. The building itself is arresting, with walkways encouraging visitors to walk over, under and through it while never losing sight of the river below or nearby Lisbon. Beautifully capturing the soft Portuguese light, it is an enticing structure that is covered in nearly 15,000 three-dimensional tiles, a tasteful nod to Portugal’s ceramic industry.

Amanda Levete. Courtesy of Matt Holyoaks

When the kuntshalle threw open its doors, organisers celebrated the momentous occasion with a 12-hour public programme that consisted of live performances, exhibition openings and educational events. Guests clamoured round the centrepiece of proceedings, Pynchon Park by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, which is housed in the new Oval gallery. Given the brief Utopia/Dystopia, the acclaimed French artist chose to create a part sci-fi, part romance narrative in which a species from outer space has invaded and designed the space to observe the human race. This, along with The World of Charles and Ray Eames and The Form of Form will be on display throughout October.

Antonia Mexia, CEO of EDP Group and Chairman of EDP Foundation who commissioned the MAAT project feels that the new space is more than just a gallery. "MAAT will restore the historic connection between the city and the water. It will be a hub for attracting people who come here to enjoy art and architecture. More than that, however, it will draw people from the heart of the city to the panoramic views along the Tagus estuary, a riverfront area that has long been neglected, but thanks to MAAT, will become a vibrant new destination within Lisbon."

 Maximiliano Arrocet. Courtesy of Peter Guenzel

Next up will be the opening of the restaurant, shop, main gallery and multimedia rooms and then the official opening of the surrounding park, designed by landscape artist Vladimir Djurovic Landscape Architecture. This, the final phase in the entire project, is set to happen in the middle of this year. One thing is for certain - anyone, claiming any kind of interest in the arts and design, will be sure to make summer 2017 a Portuguese one.