Half Dose #24: House in Brejos de Azeitao

This house in Brejos de Azeitao, Setubal, Portugal by Aires Mateus is a renovation of an ancient winery, of which the architects acknowledge the wide space and thick walls as its main attributes.

Within this wide space, the duo appears to have achieved the impossible, as the volumes for the private rooms above seem to teeter on the edge, ready to fall into the more public, social spaces below.

The plan and section below illustrate the thick walls, the perimeter circulation, and the projecting boxes.

This design is an extremely original way of looking at the house, especially the public and private realms of this building type. One (private boxes above) creates the other (public/social space below), both contained within the historical walls of the winery. But how important is this container to the design? If the house were completely new construction, might it approach something like Shigeru Ban's Naked House, a semi-inversion of this design with the added feature of movable boxes containing the separate private rooms?

In this case, the architects seem to have exploited the qualities of the original, creating a tension between old and new that finds its parallel in the tension between public and private.

[More images are available on the architect's website. Also see my weekly dose on their design for Nova Rectory at the New University of Lisbon.]


  1. Yes, it feels threatening and uncomfortable. Those big volumes might fall on you at any time. Why is this a good thing? Seems like a horrible place to be. Technically interesting, maybe, but not a place you'd want to be.

  2. I couldn't disagree more. This is a fantastic space. To me, the suspended volumes give the project a sense of weightlessness and light.

  3. d.klotz - Considering it's a house, a private commission for a specific client (a family), who's to say if they feel the same uncomfort? Ideally, the architect and client had a working relationship where the latter received a design they find habitable and enjoyable, if not thought-provoking at the same time.

    I think the second photo creates this disoncerting effect because there isn't anything to help give it scale. The door at the back is taller than the the ceilings, though that door is probably much taller than the typical 7 or 8 feet. Without furniture as well to add scale, the feeling that those boxes are threatening is somewhat justified. But if we think of the underside of the boxes at, say, 10 feet, then the space isn't so much cramped as weightless, as anon mentions. Rather than being completely enclosed, this space is open in parts to the roof of the larger space above. It's an extremely complex space that defies our memories, of what we think of when we think of a room, or a house.

  4. the second image has the roof completly blackened!! it doesnt show the nice old wood frame construction that gives that nice contrast to the white volumes which float in the space.


Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam.