The codfish – “bacalhau” – has always been deeply knitted into Portuguese cuisine. Legend has it that there are at least 1000 thousand ways to cook it, making this fish a local foodie favorite. Architects Nuno Mateus and José Mateus, co-founders of Portugual-based architecture firm ARX, designed the Ílhavo Maritime Museum in the city of Ílhavo back in 2002, the finalized project was even deserving of nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2003.
Now, the museum is one of the most visited museums in the region of Centro de Portugal, telling a story of high sea fishing in the Newfoundland and in Greenland, as well as in the “ria” of Aveiro. The Mateus brothers have recently revisited their celebrated museum to design a new codfish aquarium.
The codfish aquarium connects two other buildings and is a complex built ensemble. At the heart of the building museum visitors will find the fish and the sea. The visitor’s path is a spiraling ramp, a journey that begins in suspension over the tank, to turn into a diving mode of gradual discovery, an experience of immersion in the cod habitat. The informal auditorium, with extensive visibility into the aquarium, marks a pause in the visit for contemplation and information about the life of this species.
The architects use their expertise in creating contrast and movement throughout the space as architectural elements such as ramped hallways, stairs, and exhibition features visually fold into one another, allowing the visitors to learn about the history of codfish fishing in a fantastic way.
The aquarium features a Sea Room that presents an interesting collection of nautical instruments and miniatures of ancient boats. The new extension will be the first in the country, and the ideal place to observe this interesting species with a closer look. The Codfish Aquarium is a must-see spot of the city of Ílhavo, which intensely promotes the preservation of sea traditions.