Porto Cruise Terminal

Luís Pedro Silva 


Porto Cruise Terminal
João Ferrand

The South Mole at the Port of Leixões is visible from a long way off and my attention was aroused as soon as the construction of the Cruise Terminal started. The building is large but being enclosed by the breakwater seems to make its scale entirely appropriate. Because it is isolated it is not easy to grasp its size, but when a large ship is moored alongside, it is clear that it is well proportioned.

Being cylindrical gives it the appearance of a continuous volume, regardless of where you are looking from and it is not easy to identify its front.Its exterior is not formed by a single wall, but seems to be composed of an unbroken ribbon, wound on a shaft in superposed layers that are loosened and also resemble tentacles.

When seen from above, in the distance, it looks like a white dot on the landscape and as we approach it reminds us of the clouds forming the eye of a hurricane, with three long arms that extend around it. When we get closer, we see that it is carefully fitted into the mole, like a ball joint that helps the breakwater to curve – it seems that it was already there long before, and that it was the breakwater that embraced it, grabbing it like a rock.

The building looks very simple in form but it is, in fact, extremely complex and ambitious in terms of function. At first glance one doesn’t realise that it has an open air auditorium on the roof, and has submerged parts that house a vivarium.

After observing it in some detail, it is clear that nothing has been left to chance, and all the pieces fit together as if there were a formula to describe each piece that makes it up.

Outside, it has a rather closed appearance, with exterior cladding tiles resembling a thick skin, like scales, as if they were an organic protection against the action of the wind, the sea and the sun, but inside there is abundant light.

Light floods the interior of the building through huge windows, woven into the gaps that the “unbroken ribbon” from the outside does not cover. Close to, the windows seem solid and thick but within the context of the structure they become light and almost imperceptible.

The pathways inside are simple and seem to be an extension of what we see from the outside. The central spiral ramp strengthens the eye of the hurricane idea, but the space is welcoming and uncluttered.

One curious aspect that is not clear at first sight is that there are narrow slits in the floors of some corridors on the upper floors. It’s strange, because when you look down, you see water through an open hole in the floor. It’s like a kind of gill that is essential for the building to breathe.

Seen from afar, it’s hard to imagine how the Cruise Terminal works, but when we walk around it, its meaning and balance within the Port of Leixões are clearly revealed.






Location Matosinhos, Portugal
Client APDL Administração dos Portos do Douro, Leixões e Viana do Castelo S.A. / Universidade do Porto
Project 2005-2010
Completion 2015
Architecture Luís Pedro Silva, Arquitecto Lda
Authors Luís Pedro Silva
Structures Newton Consultores de Engenharia Lda
Installations RGA / GM Engenharia
Consultants Iperplano Lda
Business Model Quaternaire Portugal
Mobility gng.apb, arquitectura e planeamento Lda
Durability and hygrothermal Vasco Peixoto de Freitas
Landscape José Magalhães
Maritime work Pedro Romano
Contrator Consórcio Opway S.A. + Ferreira S.A.
Construction supervision Proman S.A.