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Buildings - Culture

Helena Sá e Costa Theatre


The Helena Sá e Costa Theatre (THSC), inaugurated on May 19, 2000, was built in a central courtyard of an existing building, the “Escola Normal” (an old Primary Teaching school) built in 1883. The complete rehabilitation of this building was also developed and completed in 1999 and it is currently the place for the School of Music and Performing Arts (ESMAE) of the Porto Polytechnic.

The rehabilitation project of the theatre was part of the program Porto 2001 – European Capital of Culture and was carried out taking advantage of the façade and part of the structure of the existing old building. A major rehabilitation was carried out, designed by the architect Filipe Oliveira Dias. The design, essentially in steel structure, assumes diverse geometric configurations, with a great variety of structural solutions. The structure of the theatre located in the old central courtyard of the school complex consists on a staging area, an audience and a balcony.

The THSC has some features to point out, such as:

  • Laboratory-type classrooms. The insertion of the auditorium in the old rectangular courtyard of the building, with windows in all its surrounding walls, allows the accomplishment of classes in laboratory-type classrooms. The auditorium has a capacity for three hundred seats and is prepared for theatre, ballet and orchestra (it has a pit for 70 persons).
  • Transparent rooftop. The theatre has a transparent and special glazed rooftop, which allows teaching with daylight and maintaining the character of the old “open” backyard. It has a motorized system of obscuration of the roof until reaching the blackout. The roof windows have very demanding characteristics, with internal air box, thermal and acoustic insulation, and high mechanical resistance. Closing the curtains, in an area of 14 x 17 meters, it is possible to achieve a total blackout in three minutes.
  • Identity. The identity and authenticity of the old building of 1883 were maintained by the singular form of intervention which, being of enormous complexity, resulted in a seemingly simple rehabilitation. Those who knew the old building considered that in the intervention “only the walls were painted”.
  • Acoustics. The optimization of the acoustic conditions, namely the control of reverberation and intelligibility, is achieved through the geometry and variable volume of the room, by computer-assisted rotation of the reflector panels that integrate the ceiling.

The THSC is an appropriate, high-quality space for theatre and music and its mission is to promote and spread art as a tool for the knowledge process and for the integral growth of the individual in dance, music, theatre and image arts, fostering the revelation of new trends and supporting movements of embryonic artistic projects inside and outside the Institution.

Key Facts
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Arch. Oliveira Dias
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Porto, Portugal
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