Open to the elements

Nick Myall
27 Oct 2017

This inspiring home is not only a safe haven from the world but it acts as a shelter from the fierce Portuguese sun

This house, designed by Filipe Saraiva Arquitectos, is located on a piece of land in Ourém, Portugal, characterized by its rectangular configuration, with a descending slope in the south (next to the public road). The difference in height between the highest point and the lowest point is approximately 4.50m. It is a farmland with a natural landscape, facing south and overlooking the Castle of Ourém. According to the owners: “When we ask a child, anywhere in the world to draw a house, all of them invariably present us with a simplistic representation consisting of five lines, a rectangle and two squares. The pentagon composed by five lines represents the walls and the roof. The rectangle is meant to represent the door and the squares, the windows. Regardless of the culture, the architectural references of each place, or the most common concept of accommodation from that place, it shows that all the houses have characteristics that are transversal to each one of us, because we all feel that the house is like a shelter that protects us from the world that surrounds us. It is our safe haven and our own world. This archetype is usually defined by a polygon of regular geometric shape, generally well proportioned and with balanced dimensions, with which we all identify.”. 

The project is for the owner and their family and friends and intends to meet their functional needs, but also to satisfy a range of architectural requirements that are part of the formal and spatial imaginary, resulting from the owner’s individual and family experience. After the process of identifying the site and acquiring the land, the development of the project became a natural process where the pretensions and memories began to give meaning to the drawing. From then on, the drawing started to gain a consistent form. This form has become the concept of this project with which the owner tried to be, throughout its development, the most coherent possible, trying not to distort from the principle. The pergola assumes the same design, as an extension from the house. 

The project was developed based on the modular composition principle, creating a proper rhythm in the façades and roofing. The constructive method adopted consists in the use of prefabricated black concrete panels, with a regular dimension, that defines the stereotomy of the project, since it is composed of repeated modules arranged sequentially. The use of black concrete as a material aims for a smooth integration in harmony with the landscape, as well as reduce maintenance costs. In formal terms, the house results in a simple and perfectly regular volume, almost monolithic, that lands on the ground, in the longitudinal direction of its inclination, in an intermediate point overlooking the street. 

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