Gruta das Torres Visitor Centre
|function||information centre, tourism|
Pico Island has the biggest number of volcanic caves in the Azores. The Gruta das Torres was discovered in 1990 and is, with a length of 5150 metres, Pico Island's biggest cave. When the regional authorities decided to open the cave as a tourist attraction, they commissioned SAMI.arquitectos to build a visitor's centre to inform and support the tourists and at the same time protect the fragile skylight, the result of a natural ceiling collapse. The architects came up with two main elements: a circular sweep and a linear spatial organization - a sequence of programmatic spaces that prepare visitors for the spectacle below. The construction is a reinterpretation of local building techniques. The 'currais de figueira' structures ('fig tree walls'), once built to protect vineyards from wind and seawater damage, here naturally became the south façade of the building, its open-weave structure allowing light to infiltrate the entire building, as well as avoiding the necessity for windows.