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Old and New Mortars Meet: Red House by EXTRASTUDIO

Old and New Mortars Meet: Red House by EXTRASTUDIO

This house designed by EXTRASTUDIO is located in a small village in Azeitao, south of Lisbon. The project consists of converting a former winery built by the client’s grandparents at the beginning of the 20th century into a single-family house.

Protected from the Atlantic Ocean by hills, the area has a mild Mediterranean microclimate, creating the ideal conditions for growing grapes. The area produces some of the country’s finest wines. Set back from the main road and accessible along a narrow alley, the plot has a small orchard of orange trees, an oasis in the middle of the village.

Ph. Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

Preservation of the orchard determined the whole project. In order to retain the trees, it was necessary to keep the existing building and accept that the two sides of the house that border adjacent properties would have no windows.

Only two incisions were made into the existing volume. A fourteen-meter long window was cut into the west façade facing the orchard, turning the interior and exterior into a single space. A courtyard was inserted into the corner abutting the adjacent properties, allowing light to enter the darkest areas of the house.

The public areas of the house are arranged on the ground floor, occupying the entire footprint. The private areas unfold on the upper level, flanking the façades and generating a sequence of strategically placed voids that create double and triple height spaces on the ground floor below. The generous scale recalls the building’s former use.

Inside, very specific moments are created: a nine-meter high ceiling gives a palace-like dimension to the entrance hall and open-air showers are possible in the courtyard. A white floor reflects daylight in the interior and mirrored walls make spaces seem infinite, trapped between reflection and reality, while sliding windows open the entire living room to the garden on hot summer nights.

Designed to suit the lifestyle of the South, the house was envisioned with a stark but informal atmosphere where private matters could coexist with a table full of family and friends. All existing materials were preserved and upcycled during construction; the old roof tiles were reused, stone was transformed into sills, and the timber roof structure became an exterior deck.

Retaining the existing walls meant confronting primordial Mediterranean construction techniques that predate the industrialization of materials. To make old and new mortars compatible, a lime mortar was developed by a local company working with millennial techniques, combining pure lime with pozzolans. Once it is exposed to oxygen in the air, the mortar will begin to petrify, slowly turning into stone.

A natural red pigment was added to the mortar to reinforce the building’s presence, allowing the house to age gradually and changing its tonality without ever requiring a coat of paint. Over the days and months, the color of the house alters; it is lighter or darker depending on the humidity and almost black when it rains.

Ph. Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

To accentuate the house’s Mediterranean character, a reflection pool was inserted in the garden. Raised above the ground recalling an old irrigation tank, the black pool mirrors the sky. Since it is not possible to distinguish limits or edges, swimming here is a primordial act; the body in water floats in an absolute void. In May, when the scent of the orange trees fills the night air, the aroma is intoxicating.

DATE: 2016 / LOCATION: Vendas de Azeitão, Portugal / AREA: 360 m2 (built) / PROGRAM: Single family house / STATUS: built / DESIGN: EXTRASTUDIO (João Caldeira Ferrão, João Costa Ribeiro, Madalena Atouguia, Daniela Freire, Maria João Oliveira, Sónia Oliveira, Tiago Pinhal, Rita Rodrigues) / CONSTRUCTION: Sequeira e Serra lda / CONSULTANTS: Oficina dos Jardins – Sónia Caldeira, Ines Bordado (landscape), PRPC Engenheiros lda (structural engineering, plumbing, gas, building physics and acoustics), Mário Andrade (electrical), Gonçalo de Meirelles (gas) / PHOTOS: Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

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