The VAGO project involves the creation of a bar with a floorspace of 114m2, by renovating a ground floor/semi-basement space in the Santos neighbourhood of Lisbon. The building is adjacent to the Almada-Carvalhais Palace, a listed National Monument dating from the 16th century, and may originally have been a service area for the palace itself. The construction, typical of its era, houses a large interior space, featuring a vaulted brick ceiling supported by solid stone walls, which run the entire length of the space. The project aims to refurbish its original features, with extensive restoration work having been carried out to stabilise and solidify the plaster surfaces and stonework.
Inspired by Japanese “listening bars”, the concept behind the space is to create a cultural ecosystem that celebrates music and provides a welcoming and eclectic environment in which to appreciate an album or enjoy an intimate concert. With a regular and carefully devised programme of events, nights at VAGO are curated by its owners, themselves DJs and audiophiles.
The space is accessed through a door onto the main road, through which customers descend into a darkened antechamber, characterised by a glistening glass block wall. A curtain mediates the transition into the main space, which runs lengthways, parallel to the façade. The position of the central island of the bar counter accentuates the length of the space.
A platform structure providing seating for customers continues the lines of the vaulted ceiling creating an ‘amphitheatre’ space suitable for a wide range of uses. These different levels create new dynamics, not only in terms of the relationship with the exterior, but also in terms of the perception of the interior space from the different levels. Seating is along a single comfortable and inviting leather sofa. The largest window, with its fitted banquette, provides a unique moment of connection with the outdoors.
Both the platforms and the bar counter structure are built in polished concrete, emerging as an extension of the flooring, contrasting with the vault and highlighting its rich texture. The speakers, essential elements of the Project, were customised and are strategically positioned in the four corners of the space, offering visitors excellent sound quality. An uninterrupted wooden structure runs the length of the perimeter walls, incorporating the sound system and drinks display shelving, while concealing infrastructure and storage spaces. This structure is only interrupted by the openings in the rear wall, which provide space for the DJ booth, bar, and toilet facilities. Technical and wet areas are concentrated in a single unit, separated from the existing walls and ceiling in order to protect the vault, as well as the ventilation and electrical infrastructure throughout the space.
The tone of the vaulted brick ceiling is replicated in the copper-hued plaster on the walls and the reddish upholstery of the sofas, creating a harmonious environment that fosters an immersive sensory and acoustic experience of the bar.
The dark wood, warm lighting, glass bricks and vintage sound equipment create an analogue atmosphere reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s, combining it with unique, modern design.