The first phase of enabling better visitor access to the Tracas de Pontevedra archaeological site has been completed. The Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize winning “Bio-Palimpsest” project delivers an ecological approach to archaeological sites and offers an immersive experience to visitors on the Galician coast of Northern Spain. With the aim of sustaining local heritage and tourism the project by AGI architects will enhance eighteen ancient sites distributed around the town of Pontevedra. Instead of focusing on the ruins as objects separated from their context, the project re-embeds them within a whole environment.
The sites boast remarkable remnants of Galician-Roman settlements dating back to the 1st Century BC, including a number of Castros (Celtic forts) that have been fully or partially excavated. With the completion of the first three landscaping interventions in Alobre, Toiriz and A Subidà, visitors can meander through space and time, following an itinerary designed both to present and preserve the vestiges in singular ways.
Immersing in archaeology
The three ancient settlements were approached as natural museums with the wider ecological context, telling their own story. Vegetation from Roman times is reinstated on the site. The botanical species are naturally adapted to local climate and lead tourists via a system of “information pikes” to gradually uncover a historical narrative. The plants also highlight salient areas of the settlements, underline the paths that visitors should follow, and serve to anchor embankments built to offer optimal views.
The positioning of the museum-building elements and urban furnishings such as benches also carries meaning in itself: in Alobre, where the visible remains of the ancient coastal fort look out at the sea, the information posts follow a rectilinear pattern evocative of the archaeological grid overlaid during excavation.
Pathways that don’t leave a footprint
At Toiriz and A Subida, where ruins are only partially revealed and further archaeological digs have yet to take place, the landscaping project has been sensitive to what may still lie underground. The pathways leading visitors up a gentle incline in A Subida were designed to avoid carrying out any groundwork that might damage the slopes. The climb is punctuated with historical information as well as paving elements signaling gradual elevation.
The viewing platform takes in the surroundings and the double-wall fortification bordering the site, displaying how the former settlement was strategically embedded in the landscape overlooking the Pontevedra estuary.
In Toiriz, the two-hectare iron-age encampment still lies mostly underground, but its fortified enclosures and large terraced area were revealed by a magnetic survey using ground penetrating radar in 2012. The landscaping intervention thus enables an intuitive grasp of the underlying groundworks by inviting visitors to follow a course peppered with a series of corten steel shapes replicating the contours of the subterranean fortifications. The shapes, made either out of cut steel or tubing, shadow what lies beneath whilst retaining a distinctly abstract feel that leaves room for the imagination.
The strategies employed in this first phase of the project are intended to be transferable to the other sites awaiting enhancement - and will offer a cohesive experience blending nature, culture, and design. As implemented in the first phase, layering techniques will be included in the following phases to bring together landscaping, sound and lighting. The sensitive design revives history in imaginative ways whilst sustaining local ecosystems and archaeological integrity.See more
In the regional LafargeHolcim Awards, four projects in each region receive an Acknowledgement prize. The team of Ascociata Culturala Grivita 53 wants to give Bucharest in Romania its first independent theater in several decades, through the clever use of an existing structure. AGi architects in Madrid plan to develop an archeological excavation site in Pontevedra, Spain; here too, multi-functionality plays a key role. Karamuk Kuo Architekten in Zurich have planned sustainable flexibility into their design of an excavation center at Roman archaeological site Augusta Raurica in Switzerland. And NP2F in Paris are planning a recreation center in Bordeaux, France that is as airy as it is audacious.Read more »
This project addresses archaeological sites as whole environments far beyond the excavated artifact. A series of fortified Galician settlements in Pontevedra are being redesigned for visitor access. The project proposes the reinstatement of the vegetation from Roman times when the ruins were inhabited. Cruciform posts are set on the same grid used for excavation, the archaeological method. The same posts provide audio tracks telling histories, give written information, and contain lighting. A series of paths leads the visitor through the landscape and between the poles from site to site. These layers of intervention – landscape, grid, and path – produce a rich context for archaeological contemplation.Read more » Más información (Spanish) »
An integral ecological approach to the recovery of the Galician-Roman archaeological sites
The Galician-Roman archaeological sites of Pontevedra have a high scientific, tourism and socioeconomic value whose recovery and revaluation must be addressed in an integral way. Through a public competition, the local authorities together with the government have selected this project, which aims to articulate a scientific understanding of Galicia in antiquity, socially recovering patrimonial spaces and helping to paralyze depopulation, promoting non-seasonal high quality tourism. AGi architects have worked from a strategic point of view that enhances an adequate understanding of each site as fragments of a Galician history, transferring ad hoc knowledge for each of the sites, while integrating them into a unique network for the interpretation of the Galician landscape.
Natural and traditional techniques to restore and maintain an ancient environment
The project understands the human and the natural as a system that works jointly. The sites will follow strategic lines of action that include the cleaning and excavation of the settlements; the establishment of conservation methods; its signalization, diffusion and promotion, and its incorporation into a museum, both in a virtual plane, and in a physical one, for which a guide system has been proposed. Slopes, excavations and plant species will be restored, according to the “ways of doing” of the natural and geological native environment together with the building operability and inherited local techniques. A vegetated intervention will help to create a new reading that clarifies the different local landscape units: closed forest, open wild pastures, scrublands, and vegetated and rock slopes.
Pikes, Grids, and Quadrant; Sound and Light; Paths and Soils: amplifying experience
Museography is based in an orthogonal mesh similar to the archaeological methodology of excavation by strata. At the vertices of the mesh, the generating element appears: the Pike, which narrates the visitor’s experience as well as to creating an alternative visual landscape closer to the world of the uncertain, the unknown and the buried. The pikes become witnesses that tell the historical story of the past through sound. Pavements consist of natural materials related to the territory, having different densities and hardness, colors and textures enhancing perception. This experience is completed with a lighting proposal organized in two levels: a horizontal plane of lightning displayed on the floor in the form of occasional photo-luminescent paintings and a constellation of spotlights.See more
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