P-06 creates a reflective exhibition celebrating the centennial of the Portuguese Constitution of 1911.
One hundred years after the Portuguese Constitution of 1911 inaugurated the country’s first republican government, the Portuguese Assembly wanted to celebrate its impact and remind visitors that the Constitution is more than just a piece of paper.
P-06 Atelier (Lisbon) was tasked with creating an exhibition in its honor in the antechamber to the Assembly of the Republic, housed in a 400-year-old neoclassical palace.
P-06’s solution was a literal reflection on the constitution and its storied environment. Consisting of a single 3- by 14-meter volume located in the center of the ornately decorated room, it was mirrored so that it seemed to disappear in the space while at the same time, creating a series of varying and unexpected perspectives. The mirrored side featured the exhibition title and a single object: the original 1911 Constitution. On the opposite side, interpretive graphics and a generous lightbox narrated the story behind the Constitution in a graphic timeline emulating the newspapers of the time.
The parliament building’s ornate architecture—with its grand vaulted ceilings and intricate carvings—called for a minimal solution with high impact, says Nuno Gusmão, P-06 design director. “The mirror is kind of a ‘non-existing’ solution, since it minimizes the surroundings,” he explains. “Above all, the room is symmetrical and the mirror was placed in its central axis, which enhanced the effect even more.”
The P-06 team worked closely with the curator, Professor Jorge Miranda, to select artifacts that would bring the Constitution’s story to life without overwhelming the visitor. “The challenge was to have the correct amount and balance between texts, images, drawings, and artifacts,” says Gusmão. “The information had to be reduced to be functional.”
Fabrication was simple, consisting of a metal framework skinned on one side with mirrored-glass panels and on the other with acrylic panels covered in vinyl graphics. The installation was mounted over the weekend to avoid disrupting the flow of government employees and visitors through the space during the workweek.
The SEGD Global Design Awards jury commented on the exhibition’s clever integration with the ornate architecture: “When faced with the reality of such a rich, visually stimulating environment, it’s refreshing to see graphic treatment that does not try to compete, but actually enriches the space. It's amazing to see an interpretive piece of this relative scale virtually disappear in the room—magical.”
--By Pat Matson Knapp, eg magazine No. 02, 2012
“This is brilliant. It takes a while to even realize what has happened in this space, it is so beautiful. This is such a mature response to historical architectural intervention that I now find it difficult to imagine a better way to do it.”
Client: Assembleia da República
Project Area: 260m2
Open Date: July 2011
Design: P-06 Atelier
Design Team: Nuno Gusmão design director, Giuseppe Greco, Joana Proserpio designers
Photos: João Morgado