The architecture of Eduardo Souto de Moura is thoughtful, fraught with the doubts that assailed design and construction, yet at the same time rational, acknowledging contradictions and contrasts. The two detached residences with swimming pool at Ponte de Lima are a case in point. They represent two contrasting approaches to building on high-constraint terrain - here a steep slope.
As parallelepiped volumes, the two buildings are similar. Yet they are diametrically opposed. One house cantilevers out over the slope, standing out in stark relief; the other slides sleekly down the steep hill, parallel to the slope. But the contrast is not only about relating differently to natural surrounds. The houses are studies in ‘liveability’. Each responds to different requirements: one takes in the surrounding landscape through wide, full-height glazed façades that give access to covered terraces protected only by simple metal railings; the other turns inward, in compliance with the client’s desire for privacy, providing light exposure and views onto the outside from behind protective perimeter walls.
Both houses are connected to their respective road entrances by a flight of granite steps that continue down the slope along the sheer south wall of each building to the swimming pool and relaxation area.
The cantilevered house is a linear, one storey construction. The ground floorplate connects to the foundations via a series of obliquely set slabs. The recessed east-facing entrance façade comprises a lower band of marble cladding, topped by a long glazed strip set in a stainless steel frame. The entrance gives directly into the day zone with ample views over the landscape through sliding double glazed panels supported by aluminium frames. The west section is divided in two by a transverse partition separating the living room from the four bedrooms. The galvanised sheet-steel clad roof has a much gentler pitch than its neighbour’s.
The second house follows a more ‘natural’ programme. But although hugging the slope in apparent simple obedience to the lay of the land, the architecture creates a series of different levels of its own. The building springs from foundations that intersect with the slope, allowing the westward thrust of the floorplate. As the focus is on secluded interior space, the ample glazed façades do not form the outermost perimeter of the building.
On the side overlooking the swimming pool, an open-sky enclosed terrace lets air and light into the double-height living area and bedrooms through a long glazed façade that, like its counterpart in the other house, gives a unifying appearance to the elevation. The accent though is on the legibility of the interiors washed by the slanting light, of the connections set up in the two-level plan, and the exterior landscape mediated by a screening wall. The double-height living room receives light from both sides. An elegance staircase with coloured granite steps cantilevers down the east wall. The steeply pitched, copper clad roof is a core architectural feature.
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