Porto-based studio Pablo Pita designs a modest retreat near the Douro River
Porto-based architecture studio Pablo Pita has designed a modest vacation dwelling for a family of four in a village near the Douro River in Portugal. The simple house is a product of the landscape and the orientation of the valley view, as well as its low cost budget.
While the brief was admirably straightforward – the family required three bedrooms and an informal common space for slow holiday living – it was the site and the landscape that prescribed the design of the house.
‘The project required a fairly long process because of the nature protection regulations of the specific site,’ says Pablo Rebelo. ‘The site had these slopes facing an incredible view, that unfortunately faced north west. We decided to create a narrow design with openings to both sides, so that we could keep the views but still have a good lighting orientation.’
Rebelo and fellow founding architect Pedro Pita, who Wallpaper* featured in the Architects Directory 2018, drew large, yet strategic openings into the plaster walls, that frame patches of pure nature or views into the valley and horizon: ‘As you enter the house you have this wide window facing the valley completely framed by the canopies of the trees,’ says Rebelo.
The slope allowed the house to embed into the site across two levels. The living, kitchen and dining space is open to the outside, designed around a central hard maple panelled box at its core – the lower level with the bedrooms has a ‘more cavernous and protecting feel’.
From the smooth concrete flooring in the house, to the concrete water tank outside, while materials are simple, each layer of the design is thoughtful.
Modest design becomes an asset, and a careful continuation of the peaceful nature of the landscape. The flat rectangle of water in the tank becomes a quiet reflective pool, and a foundation of the social outdoor space that connects to the existing granite wall of the site and a rural path for animals that meanders discreetly by.
Forja House finds clarity and simplicity in the sloping neighbourhood, peppered with schist-built houses that each follow their own set of characteristics and ideas. The architects aimed to design a house that was a contrast, and a measured step away from a jumbled, accumulating vernacular style. ‘Most of them fail to copy old typologies, and we wanted to distance ourselves from this, assuming this abstract volume embedded in nature,’ says Rebelo.
For more information, visit the Pablo Pita website
Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.
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