An austere and traditional exterior contrasts with a clearly contemporary interior

The brief of this project by HBG Architects was to transform an ancient community oven, owned by the client’s family for decades, into a comfortable, single bedroom vacation house, with space to gather the family when needed.

The original construction in Aldeia de João Pires was a small, single-story volume, with thick exposed granite walls and a gable roof. A walled area, including an almost ruined porch, complemented the property.

The region has very cold winters and stifling summers. According to the brief, the intervention should also provide ease of use in both situations.

Located in a small, well-preserved village in the rural centre of Portugal, the house, as many others around it, was closed and unused for more than half a century.

It had, however, a quiet dignity and a sad beauty. The potential was definitely there. The project includes several proposals: to keep the beautiful external walls, raising them to the alignment of the adjoining construction, allowing for a bigger volumetry and the possibility of building a mezzanine; to maintain a discrete and traditional exterior, assuming the possibility of turning the interior into a much more contemporary and compelling space; to compensate for the lack of space by maximizing its use and reducing the partitions to the essential, while searching for a volumetric quality; to convert the walled area into a small garden, with a covered space to allow for external meals, and a water element to ease the torrid summers.

A loft-like interior gathers kitchen, living, and eating areas into a single space at the entry level, while the intimate areas are harboured in a mezzanine.

The austere exterior, materialized in rough granite, blends gently with the surrounding constructions, but contrasts with a clearly contemporary interior, delicately shaped into a cosy, warm, and comfortable space.

The main focal element of the entire intervention is the customized stair-bench-table-fireplace, that sets all the rules for the construction. This is the generating element of all the internal geometries, and the guiding thread of the entire project, which accentuates the verticality of the double height area. It is also a reinterpretation of Scarpa’s Olivetti Showroom in Venice.

Light input is carefully controlled through wall and zenithal openings, that produce dramatic effects on the bush-hammered stone, and on the wooden elements that proliferate in the house, changing its ambience throughout the day.

Customized carpentries help to add a sense of quality to the space, while providing for multiple storage areas.

The intervention provides a sensitive experience: the cold granite is softened when one enters the house and sees the warm tones of wood, notes of color in the metals, and especially, the unexpected luminosity. As one ascends and accesses the intimate areas of the house, the predominance of wood increases the feeling of comfort. The nest-like wooded bedroom is the culmination of this ascension path, and also the most comfortable space of the house.

The walled patio includes a shed, a small garden, a few trees that will hopefully age with the house, and a pond.

Design and info © HBG Architects

Images © Ricardo Oliveira Alves

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