Brutalism and Nature. The Gulbenkian Foundation Buildings (1959-1969)





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation headquarters and museum complex (1959–1969) headed a fundamental role in building science in Portugal, as it contributed to the accomplishment of a Modern Movement design committed with a high level of construction quality, showing that there was more beyond Modern Movement formalism. Inaugurated in 1969, it was designed to create a pleasant environment, providing prospects from inside at various angles to the grove of trees and the surrounding land. As a mega-structure designed under a multi-disciplinary design and construction team it achieved a high level of technical excellence and comfort, whilst beautifully linking the building and garden. Located in central Lisbon, within a park with an area of 7.5 ha, occupying an area of 25.000 m2, it was designed by the architects Alberto Pessoa (1919–1985), Pedro Cid (1925–1983) and Ruy Jevis d’Athouguia (1917–2006) with the collaboration of the landscape designers Ribeiro Barreto (1924–2013) and Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles (1922–). The construction gathered an international interdisciplinary team of specialists. The most up-to-date techniques were adopted, including reinforced and pre-stressed concrete in its construction. Some figures illustrate the volume of these buildings: 150,000 m3 of excavation, 45,000 m3 of concrete, 3,200 t of steel, 100 km of power cables, 50,000 m of air conditioning pipes and 3,500 kW of installed electrical capacity. The architectural design expresses the structure. The aim of having a dominant horizontal line that guaranteed the image of a low building hugging the land and the wish to emphasize the long slabs of concrete that constituted the visible image of the built complex called for a very creative structural concept. The impact that the complex has had and the way in which it has manifested the effectiveness of its qualities, such as formal sobriety and restraint, have confirmed the close relationship between the conception process and the construction site. With its garden it has created the very image of the prestige and innovation of the Foundation itself.

How to Cite

Tostões, A. (2016). Brutalism and Nature. The Gulbenkian Foundation Buildings (1959-1969). Docomomo Journal, (55), 50–57.







Author Biography

Ana Tostões, University of Lisbon

(b. Portugal, 1959). PhD, architect, architectural critic and historian, Chair of docomomo International and docomomo Journal editor. Full Professor at Técnico - University of Lisbon, where she is in charge of the architectural PhD program. She has been invited professor at FAUP, EPFL, ETHZ, UTSOA, RSA, ETSAB, ETSAUN. Her research field is the theory and history of architecture and construction of the 20th century, focusing on the worldwide cultural transfers. On these topics she has published books and scientific articles, curate exhibitions, organised scientific events, taken part in juries and acted as peer referee of Scientific Journals, supervised PhD and MSc thesis and given lectures worldwide. She was awarded with the title of Commander of the Order of Infante Dom Henrique (2006), with the Gulbenkian Prize (2014) and with the X Bienal Ibero-Americana de Arquitectra y Urbanismo BIAU Prize (2016).


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