A Luminous Retreat in Portugal Is Attuned to the Surrounding Terrain

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Project Details:

Location: Alentejo, Portugal

Architect: Inês Brandão Arquitectura

Footprint: 4,240 square feet

From the Architect: “Casa no Crato was designed for a couple that loves nature and silence and was looking for a retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is located at the upper part of Alentejo region, in Portugal, on a property of about 70 hectares, where oaks, holm oaks, cork oaks, and common brooms populate the various hills and create an idyllic landscape. A small flowing watercourse crosses the entire terrain, giving rise to a lagoon that serves as a refreshment point for grazing animals.

“The house was built on the top of a hill, with a privileged view of the lagoon and the surrounding hills. Its cross shape arises from the adaptation of the construction to the environment. By molding the construction around the trees, we were able to situate each of the four arms within the landscape, creating the illusion of a smaller-scale construction.

“The entrance to the property, located at a lower level, creates a path that winds through the land, allowing those who arrive here to absorb the environment of the region. From this path, we arrive at the entrance hall, which is the intersection point of the two axes that define the spatial organization of the house, and from which the remaining spaces are accessed.

“Since we consider that the house and the landscape merge into a single element, it was essential to think about the landscape design in a coherent way, choosing plants adapted to the climate. To this end, in the outdoor space next to the kitchen porch, there are several species of aromatic plants, such as thyme, lemongrass and rosemary.

“Each room has an independent relationship with the landscape, enjoying a more controlled view, given the topography that welcomes them. Lavender and other small species form the border next to the porches of the rooms, reinforcing the tranquility inherent to these spaces. Attached to this volume we find a fountain, which reinforces the presence of the water element next to the house, also serving as a water source for animals that approach.

“All along the house, porches function as transition spaces between the interior and the exterior, allowing the experience of the inhabitable areas to meet the Alentejo landscape. These spaces can be hidden with perforated Cor-Ten steel shutters, which passively control the temperature inside the house, as they allow the constant ventilation of these spaces.”

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