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Twin Houses by Extrastudio

Twin Houses by Extrastudio

Twin Houses by Extrastudio. © Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

This project by Extrastudio is located in Sesimbra, a small fishing village 30 km south of Lisbon, on a large, sloping site 600 m from the sea that extends from the village to the castle and is bounded by a pine forest and a former Roman road. The landscape here has a wild Cycladic beauty and breathtaking views of the sea. Olive trees, figs, and Aleppo pines grow on arid rocky soils, once used for agriculture.

© Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

The clients, two sisters, wanted to turn a small house built in the 1960s into a holiday home where their families and friends could gather in summer. The architect’s first decision was to build a new house in two separate volumes, providing autonomy for each family. Like twins, they share features but each also express themselves in a slightly different way: one higher and open, exposed to the landscape, the other more horizontal, seeking an intimate relationship with the surrounding land.

A holiday house must summon its own universe. Jørn Utzon’s Can Lis and Cini Boeri’s (Extrastudio) Casa Rotunda are examples of this: essential, intimate, and generous houses, deeply rooted to their site and the culture to which they belong. Buildings that help locate us physically and, when time passes, at a different pace.

“Embedded in the ground, the houses appear to emerge from the rock. Colored concrete was used, created with brown ochre pigments, tested endlessly until an identical color to the surrounding earth was found.”

As legal restrictions set 250 m2 as the maximum floor area, Extrastudio inserted courtyards and created a large canopy around each house, extending the interior to the exterior and generating additional outdoor areas with planting overhead to provide shade. A 6 m deep, suspended structure floats around the houses in a filigree of cable and wire, creating a large outdoor living room that overlooks the sea and that becomes a place where the whole family can meet.

These are recurring themes of the Mediterranean climate where ivy, jasmine, and vines have been used for centuries to provide shade and protection from the sweltering heat, keeping the inside cool. Embedded in the ground, the houses appear to emerge from the rock. Colored concrete was used, created with brown ochre pigments, and tested endlessly until an identical color to the surrounding earth was found. Its surface, with exposed aggregates, is both rough and smooth, like stone or animal skin. To obtain this texture, the concrete was poured at dusk, using a chemical process to delay the surface mortar from setting, washing it off at early dawn. The landscape called for a specific atmosphere: intense and rough, made of strong and sensual raw materials.

Inside, all elements are reduced to a minimum, materials are left in their natural state and only the walls are painted. Windows and shutters slide completely into the walls, transforming the whole house into an exterior space. Eating, sleeping, and bathing take place outdoors, sheltered from the sun with a breeze passing by.

Concrete elements are placed at particular points on the site. A bench, a platform, and a circular pool define small spaces in nature, creating unique moments in the landscape. In summer, hidden among the native plants, a cestrum nocturnum and a rare eucalyptus citriodora add an olfactory, magical dimension to the place.

© Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

DATE: 2019 / LOCATION: Sesimbra, Portugal / AREA: 250 m2 / PROGRAM: Private house / STATUS: Built / TEAM: João Caldeira Ferrão, João Costa Ribeiro, Madalena Atouguia, Daniela Freire, Maria João Oliveira, Sónia Oliveira, Tiago Pinhal, Rui de Jesus, Rita Rodrigues, Sonia Hernansanz / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTUR: Oficina dos Jardins (Sonia Caldeira, Ines Ferrao) / CONSULTANTS: PRPC Engenheiros (structural engineering), Naproge (plumbing), OHMSOR (gas, building physics, acoustics, electrical, security) / CONSTRUCTION: Paviana / FURNITURE: Loja Nord + Extrastudio / PHOTOS: Fernando Guerra | FG+SG

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