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2016 MCHAP

Museum of Congonhas

Gustavo Penna, Laura Penna e Norberto Bambozzi

Congonhas, Brazil

December 2015


Gustavo Penna Laura Penna Norberto Bambozzi


Alice Leite Flores (Architect) Fernanda Tolentino (Architect) Naiara Costa (Architect) Oded Stahl (Architect) Rísia Botrel (Management and Planning) Patrícia Alves Gonçalves (Architect) Gabriel de Souza (Architect)


Congonhas Municipal Government


Leonardo Finotti


The museum praises the symbolic axis that unites the different planes of sanctity, memory and everyday life. It establishes a bond, an association with the symbolic grounds, in order to preserve the preexisting hierarchy, the consistency and the solidity of the historic and artistic collection; it reaffirms and ensures its specific heritage. The museum portrays the town of Congonhas in its dimensions as a work of art, a sacred place, a representation of the heritage and a demonstration of faith, through its design, the exhibition it contains and the reproductions of the weather-worn statues of the Twelve Prophets, the masterpieces of Aleijadinho, a great artist in the history of America, in order to mark the city as a gem of baroque art.


The site is listed by the World Heritage and has an important ritualistic vocation; it is located on top of a high peak, overlooking the city. For this the implementation of a contemporary building which is surrounded by edifications from the 18th century has to, even more than in other cases, respect the existing topography that is provoking the baroque notion of “search for the heavens”– and to pay reverence to the symbolism of its surroundings. The museum was built to improve the understanding of the place where it is located. Despite being contemporary, the architecture of the museum harmonizes through the project’s characteristics with the language that has been present in that site for centuries: neutral implantation, never competing volumetrically with the main architectural complex; the ‘rhythm’ of the building, with its openings, proportions, alignments and hypsometries in similar scale to the rest of the complex; the immense foundation built in stone, which is very unusual for the times when the sanctuary was built, by using local stones of the region, so they do not feel ‘foreign’ to the setting; the lighter, more fluid upper portion and the walls whitewashed and painted with mineral paint – the same used in the renovation of the Christ’s Steps chapels and the main church itself; the long and smooth curvature of the building, which spreads itself on the slope, in a concave shape that echoes the oval shape of the still-in-use pilgrimage route right under it, as if they both fit each other.


With area of 3,500m², the museum is a path over three floors. On the main level, accessed from the main path ascending to the sanctuary, are the reception hall and a room of permanent exhibition. On the lower level are a hall and access to permanent and temporary exhibitions, library and documentation area (which will consolidate the museum as a reference center for Brazilian baroque) and to the administrative section. There is also an open-air amphitheater. On the underground level, is a Reference Center for the Baroque and an atelier for stone-related work. ”Another aspect of extreme importance to me is that this is all side by side with the Twelve Prophets, the masterpiece of Aleijadinho, the biggest artist in the history of all Americas. it’s also there with the six chapels depicting the Passion, which are wonderful. Our design had to be a timeless one, even though it’s also a witness of its own time and is proud to state its poetic value, respect and balance. The architecture feels secure enough to trail the path of kindness, reverence, conscience and respect for the Bom Jesus de Matosinhos Sanctuary,” Penna describes. The interior is of fluid spaces. “Clean, white, clear, not fragmented at all. It’s baroque itself translated by contemporaneity, where there is no rupture but curve, a way to heaven,” Penna explains. The architectural solutions were aimed to offer as mach lighting and flexibility of infrastructure and space so it is possible to come up with any museographic arrangement.

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