Architect Maria Fradinho of FRARI, a Portuguese design practice based in Aveiro, chose her favorite spot on the outskirts of the city of Ílhavo, to build a singular place that would become both her home and office. A 940-m2 lot near the historical Vista Alegre Porcelain Factory turned out to be the ideal grounds for the 300-m2 house completed around the end of 2018, adding a fresh outlook to the area. Known as one of the most prestigious porcelain brands in the world, the Vista Alegre Factory has been around since 1824, and is considered a national landmarks. It is also very dear to the architect, who paid tribute to its architecture, because, as she says, “the place itself so requested”.
Strongly resembling the bare and honest drawings made by a child when asked to depict a house, the project’s shape is that of a linear, arched box. Its façade meets the street in perfect alignment with the neighbouring houses, both in style and shape. Crowning the edifice, the impressive shape of the pitched roof engages in a symbolic game of association with the arched entrance to Vista Alegre, right down the street, inevitably bestowing the name“Arch House”to the project.
The actual front of the building is located a few steps behind the street view, made of large glass windows instead of walls, that make it look completely bare. Slowly allowing the visitor to adapt to the exposed interior of the house, the patio created between the two façades has been dubbed a“bridge”by the architect, an in-between space shared by the two intertwined environments – namely that of the indoors and outdoors. Private and public, exposed but protected, the patio gives you time to make the transition gradually and organically.
This is a project that allows for a play between light and shadow, discretion and invitation. Stepping inside, one comes across a small indoor garden next to the garage, and an entrance hall that feels like a small wooden box, offering the cozy and inviting feel of a warm womb. In a game of extreme contradictions, the elevating sensation created by the very tall ceiling in the living room and the light coming in from the large windows make for a very inviting space that is impossible to ignore. The double-height space creates an open core around which every area of the house is linked - even the garage can be integrated through moving walls and doors. Around the living area, many different rooms resembling ship containers are stacked one on top of the other, in varying levels and shapes, to create the multiple volumes of an industrial environment. Washed, however, with white paint and featuring basic elements in warm wood, they are magically turned it into a habitable haven.
A wide staircase connects the living room to the master bedroom, complete with a bathroom and study, both located on the top floor. Like a perfect game of Tetris, the children’s bedroom falls right on top, with the area above the bathroom creating a small inner loft, inside the room. Every one of these blocks/rooms has equal claims to light and views, as their position allows for visual contact between multiple areas of the house and offers each of them the chance to relate to the fully glazed back façade which overlooks a private garden.
In direct reference to the industrial architecture it pays tribute to, the pitched roof of the Arch House is coated with zinc sheets as are the façades, while the floors, both interior and exterior, feature beautiful gray porcelain tiles. Even the bathroom shares the same“subway smoke”coloured tiles, while pine wood flooring is used for the rest of the interior. Unfolding as a brilliant game between exposure and sanctuary, the combination of industrial inspirations with articulate transparencies create a dramatic urban setting.