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Duarte Caldas and Victor Vicente restored the 1940’s Espaço Espelho D’Água

Francisco Nogueira

Built in 1940 in Belem, Lisbon, as a restaurant/beer hall for the Exhibition of the Portuguese World, Espaço Espelho D’ Água has now been renovated to its original modernist style by DC.AD Architects and Victor Vicente and turned into a versatile, multipurpose space.

The building is flanked by a large water feature that reaches out to the river to create a sensation of floating. The overall structure follows a rigorous metric that shares its proportions with large sculptures that lead to the entrance.


The intervention seeks to restore the building to its original characteristics. Visually polluting features have been removed, a non-original structure to the south has been demolished and the overall framework restored. The opening up of a large skylight in the centre of the space alludes to the open-air patio that once separated the original main structures.


The installation of a cafeteria and restaurant on the ground floor, linked to the terrace, led to the discovery of a mural by the artist Sol Lewitt, dated 1990, which was fully restored. The centrally located kitchen is flanked by walls covered by vertical gardens.


To the North, there is a quieter leisure area with views towards the Belém Cultural Centre and the Monastery of Jerónimos, as well as a shop and mezzanine. From here can also be seen the stairs leading up to the first-floor office area. To the west, in the main entrance zone, an open space serves as an art gallery and music venue.


The interior reveals the structure of the building, giving an idea of the different areas that compose it. Finishes are minimal, with concrete flooring and white surfaces. Lines of lighting work to emphasize the interior drama of the space, while circular lamps on the north and the south facades are a final touch to emphasize links with the original 1940 project.

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all images © Francisco Nogueira