Gateira is a hamlet situated on a beautiful hill with vineyards, pine and olive trees, with splendid views over the southern tip of Serra da Estrela, the highest point in mainland Portugal.
The clients – a British couple – wanted a second home to provide them with space, open air and silence, in contrast to their life in London. The first question: how should one design for such a dramatic landscape, with an unusual balance between nature, agriculture and traditional architecture? Our strategy was to interfere as little as possible. One enters the house at the upper part of the plot, through a wall that evokes the traditional slate buildings of the region, and descends into the core of the house – a social space split into two levels. From this space, the volume of the house extends along the topography, with a subtle yet effective separation between social and private. Every space is situated on a different level and has direct access to the outside. One can say that instead of a house within the landscape we thought of a house made of the landscape, as though building a walk in the countryside.
Beyond the romantic notion of a well-grounded house, extensive contact with the ground brings enormous energy benefits. We use the endless thermal mass of the earth to balance air temperatures throughout the day and seasons. The patio between the living room and the master bedroom is also a passive thermal element, creating a thermal difference between the swimming pool and the patio, which generates anascending air flow across the house for cooling in spring and summer and allows intensive insulation of the innermost point of the house in autumn and winter.