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If a visitor from 50 years ago to the neighbourhood of the Alqueva dam visited this region today, they would not recognise it. Gone are the parched fields and the subsistence farming, to be replaced with endless vistas of olive groves and vineyards. The Alentejo region of Portugal is still a quiet, off the beaten track destination with open and uninterrupted views of a gently undulating distant horizon.

This house, to be used as a holiday house overlooking the man-made lake created by the dam, is designed for mostly outdoor living, possible in this dry and hot region for a good part of the year. Shade, a sense of enclosure and the inducement to the flow of breezes, are essential requirements of the building.


The design concept was to form the house from a collection of boxes (habitable rooms) with outdoor spaces between them (courtyards) forming outdoor extensions of the rooms. When the house is in use it will be difficult to distinguish what is inside and outside. The whole complex is contained within a simple protective wall.


The materials used reflect the simple construction methods of local tradition. Solid, thick and protective earthen walls, rendered manually in lime plaster provide a softness to simple geometric forms. The thick walls provide internal coolness in the hot climate. The extensive use of pergolas for shading creates external rooms which merge seamlessly with the internal spaces

Conceptual idea

Concept diagram: assembly of voids and solids crates the form

Floor plans

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