The musealization project of the Roman Baths of Chaves arises from a need to interpret, protect, and disseminate a heritage of high value discovered underground in the city center of Chaves. The ruins of the ancient Roman termal complex were discovered at the beginning of this century in Largo do Arrabalde, in the square defined to the north by Rua Cândido dos Reis, to the south by Rua das Longras, to the east by the Court building, and to the west by Largo do Arrabalde. The good state of conservation and extraordinary size of this complex makes it one of the most important in Europe. After its discovery, and over a period of approximately ten years, excavation work was carried out and a building was constructed for the physical protection of the structures. When we won the design competition for the musealization of the space in 2016, we found a large concrete superstructure in plain sight, yet without the capacity and salubriousness for use as a museum.
The intervention consisted of the finishing of the interior spaces, their reformulation, and reorganization, as well as solving the humidity problems caused by the termal hot water springs existing in the space.
In conceptual terms, the aim was to enhance the Roman structures by emphasizing the true protagonist of the space. Thus, the creation of a black background, like the backdrop of a theatre, so that the ruins could be highlighted. A balcony that embraces the space on the upper floor outlines the museum route and organizes the message and the experience of interpreting the archeological finds by their themes. This exhibition route is also organized by different means of communication. As a result, there is a scale model of the space at the start, recreating the three-dimensionality that this thermal complex would have had in its entirety.
A timeline along the longest arm of this route tells the story of the square in the suburbs throughout the ages. The recreation of the vaulted roof of the structures, with bricks discovered on site, together with the lithic elements on display, assists in the identification and interpretation of the valuable finds. Finally, an interactive table allows a more dynamic and up-to-date experience with a 3D recreation of the whole building, the water circuits, and the various phases of the building.The reactivation of the thermal water circuits is an added value to the experience, making it possible to observe the operation of the baths similarly to the original thermal complex. The result is an immersive experience around a heritage of high value, which, due to its excellent state of conservation, differs from the general panorama of this type of infrastructure.