Júlio de Matos Photography

REVISTA OVELHA (04/2005) [back]

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Casting light, sound, temperature and even smell, architect Júlio de Matos designed the exhibition space about Alqueva as a route between drought and an abundance of water, along which visitors receive information in the most varied and suggestive ways.

To use the words of its creator, the architect Júlio de Matos, a visit to the Alqueva Pavilion at Ovibeja 2002 "is like a journey". This journey covers a vast area of over 900m2, occupying eighty per cent of the total area of the pavilion, salvaged from Expo 98.

The journey begins in a large entrance gallery, where there is a series of panels with general information about water in the Alentejo and the Alqueva process. In the adjoining space, you can appreciate an exhibition organised by the Portuguese Photography Centre, with images from the National Collection.

From the entrance, four doors open onto a slightly raised corridor, reached by a ramp that allows access for wheelchairs, a detail that was present in the design of the whole pavilion, so that everybody can visit. "It was something that concerned me," says Júlio de Matos.

Entering the Drought corridor, you are given a hat to reinforce the idea of excess heat and desertification that this part of the exhibition wants to convey. At the end, a bank of hot air blowers is directed against visitors, while they walk under the intense light of the low-ceiling corridor, the ground of which reproduces images of the Alentejo soil parched by drought. At a certain point, pieces of clay and dead branches begin to emerge in a crescendo that leads to a scenario of dry earth and plants in a sloping wall.

At the end of the Drought Corridor lies the Rain Room, a vast space 5 metres high where you have "a three-dimensional experience of various forms of water." On the right as you enter there are plants in an area of irrigated land that smells of humus. On the left there is a long tank, on which it is always raining. From time to time, visitors are also showered with spray, in anticipation of which they are given small umbrellas. Incidentally, that stretch of exposure to rain is suggested in all forms, from the clouds created by the smoke generators to the rains and thunderstorms evoked by the sound environment. A digital slideshow is also projected, which Matos describes as a river and irrigation "texture of images" with a generic text on water.

From here you move into a screening room with thirty seats, where visitors can enjoy a 3D slideshow on the states of water using the special glasses that they receive on entering. You also get white gloves, which allow you to perform tricks with the hands taking advantage of ultra-violet light, the only light available in the darkened space. The route continues along a corridor with several rooms, during which the course of a river, from source to mouth, is depicted in acoustic environments. From here, you enter an octagonal room, the Alqueva Space, where two plasma screens and several panels provide information about the project. Complementing this information, a video produced by EDIA is projected in the adjoining auditorium, which has seating for 70.

Júlio de Matos explains that the process of creating the exhibition space "was also a journey." He points out that "the initial drawings started as just concepts," which "slowly began to become clearer," until, "through conversations with the various people concerned, the ideas were crystallised". There was no "magical process," he says, preferring to call it a "process of maturation, involvement and passion too".

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