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The Organic Lab

Reconversion of the abandoned convent Sao Bentu de Castris in Evora, Portugal, into an Organic Wine Research Centre. The Centre wouldn't be part of a partnership with the University through an apprenticeship programme, together with the regional wine Coop, to promote heritage and regional traditions. The project is part of a larger scheme that divides the convent in three interactive activities: organic wine lab, stud farm and cultural hub.

Three elements: living self sustainable community on site, organic wine making lab, and public interface, all functioning together.
Aim: put the site back on the map strengthening the regional and national tradition of wine-making. The projects stands on the principle of self-sustainability, re-creating a living community by bringing people who have suffered from the recession, and giving them a second chance to learn a new profession and a place to live in. This will be done through a partnership with the University. A public interface will also be implemented in order to sell the wine produced and put the site along the eco-tourism trails. The organic wine labs will make the site a new pole for this upcoming economy, on a regional and national scale. The 50 ha surrounding the convent will be used to produce, sell and test the wine-grapes.

Phases: The regeneration process will take place in three different stages, at the end of which the convent will be completely economically self-sustainable.


Strategy Masterplan

The feasibility of the proposal has at its base the partnership with the University and the Alentejo wine Coop. This creates a strong basis on which the convent could become the Centre of an innovative research, with local, regional and national importance. The public interface is also crucial for the economy of the convent, providing a new brand of wine for the Convent of Sao Bentu de Castris. Finally, the community, who is going to receive a qualification and therefore a better future.


Strategy Narrative

The regeneration strategy aims at reducing the high current unemployment by offering an apprenticeship programme in collaboration with the University of Evora. The convent would be a tool to regenerate the city itself by re-becoming a living building, with students and teachers living within those walls 24/7.


Journey Collages

The regeneration programme aims at working 24/7 all year around. This because, being an historical building, the high maintenance will be easier if constantly lived in. The three different programmes interlink each other and work differently through out the year. While during the hot season, the workload will be high, with the high touristic season as well; during winter, the cultural events and apprenticeship classes will take place.



From the building analysis, the main interests of historical and architectural entity was the incredible visible layering that several renovations in the past have created. The main design concept therefore was to keep these differences and to enhance them in particular elements through-out the building.


Construction Elements: Enhancing the Layering features

The walkaway in the middle has created a more flexible circulation route although still maintaining the historical level change (left). The decomposition of the roof enables the rooms to have more natural light and ventilation. From the roof top people can look into the wine labs and the communal areas (right).


The Wine Experience

The public interface aims at discovering the organic wine production as well as the beauty of the historical convent through a journey around the site. The corten steel elements leads the way from the countryside to the rooftop, where an amazing view of the city of Evora awaits them.



T he renovation project aimed to create small but interesting interventions to keep the convent main identity while still creating a new form of architecture.