Project NameHouse in Monsaraz
Architecture PracticeAires Mateus Associados
|Project Name||House in Monsaraz||Location||
|Architecture Practice||Aires Mateus Associados|
Set amid the rolling landscape of rural Portugal near the town of Monsaraz, this concrete house by Lisbon-based architecture practice Aires Mateus marries the material’s brutalist rigour with a sculptural purity that echoes the unspoilt beauty of the Alentejo region. The property overlooks the vast Alqueva Lake, the largest artificial lake in Europe, whose boundless extent informed the architects’ decision to centre the house on a protected courtyard embracing the water. Contrary to the prominent position of the nearby town of Monsaraz, a fortified settlement perched atop a rocky outcrop, the house that Mateus designed hides in plain sight. Dug into a hillside and concealed by a green roof, the only visible elements of the building’s presence are the cantilevered roof jutting out towards the lake and the white-painted circular light wells, but even these are only visible from above.
Accessed through a staircase that uncannily disappears into the ground, the house is comprised of three subterranean bedrooms that open up onto two circular patios, and two communal rooms, a living space and a kitchen, which converge onto a sheltered terrace overlooking the lake. Enclosed by the concave mass of the cantilevered roof structure, the terrace is a cathedral-like, domed space whose sculptural coherence and massive height is juxtaposed with the vastness of the unfolding landscape. Featuring a circular skylight formed by an inverted dome, the “scooped out” volume of the terrace attests to the architects’ love for geometry and compositional precision.
While the green roof integrates the house into the landscape, the exposed part of the concrete structure stands out against the grassy hillside with its board-formed texture reflecting the starkness of natural landscape. The same brutalist sensibility is carried on inside where exposed concrete floors and ceilings are complemented by wooden panelling on the walls, painted white in the living and kitchen areas, but left in its natural finish in the corridor. White paint is also applied to the bedroom walls as well as the circular courtyards they open up onto, which also feature white tiling and white pebbles, in order to increase the amount of reflected daylight entering the rooms. Underpinned by a minimalist aesthetic, complete with hidden storage seamlessly integrated into the building fabric, the monastic austerity of the interior design mirrors the beautiful emptiness of the surrounding countryside whilst imbuing the house with a contemplative ambience.