Hotels and resorts will have to revise their templates: too costly in terms of environmental and financial resources. this is the new frontier ‒ in tourism as well as housing
Talking of tourism and including the term 'eco-friendly' in the same sentence may seem like a contradiction. Yet the world is changing and tourists too ‒ invariably pampered and revered by hospitality facilities ‒ now place more careful attention on aspects connected to green issues. Indeed, environmental concerns are on everybody's lips. Nonetheless, it was astonishing to recently find out that a young woman from Connecticut is paid to travel the globe to promote 'peace' through eco-friendly tourism. Her sponsors are of course private enterprisers investing funds for their own agendas, but this initiative does coax reflection.
And it is thought-provoking that demand and the desire to flee elsewhere, to places respecting and submerged in nature is enticing for many. This is why we are showcasing the Paradinha project by Summary Architects: 11 new 'cabins' ‒ modern versions of the holiday home ‒ located in Alvarenga, 80 or so kilometres south-west of Porto. An idea for getting away among Portugal's woods and rugged countryside, these examples of architecture are ideal for rest, contemplation, having fun or simply enjoying memorable moments enveloped in nature.
A few short questions to the architects reveal much of their philosophy and design approach for Paradinha.
What makes this project unique? What is its greatest quality? What makes it so surprising and unusual?
Besides the natural lay of the site, also its ruggedness and isolation from the rest of the world were a challenge during project development. In addition, we would have been facing a tricky construction phase if we'd turned to a traditional building approach. So this project required strategic planning to curb construction and workforce costs. Our solution was to build as much as possible using our modular system which ‒ in our opinion ‒ was the most efficient option for streamlining this process. More generally, this project was also an opportunity to accrue new experience with our previously developed Gomos construction system: each edifice is made up of a different number of modules, with all the engineering systems (plumbing, electrical and air-con) fitted into a separate external module. The approach was repeated throughout the project, speeding up the production and assembly procedure. This also helped us understand the versatility of our solution and improve on it in technical terms.
Deciding to use prefab units was not only a choice ‒ stemming from the studies by Summary founder Samuel Gonçalves on modular and prefab building systems ‒ but was the only efficient option open to the designers to simplify the construction process in such extreme conditions. The client's initial idea was to spread various 'rooms' for tourism over the site. Hence the designers came up with compact houses ‒ not mere rooms ‒ so that some of these could act as permanent homes rather than all being holiday accommodation units.
Mixing the two different formats (tourism + permanent homes) brings the great potential to make the complex much more than just seasonal, given its scope to be lived in all year round and not just for vacations. This multi-purpose approach attracts more frequent occupation, which in turn encourages more regular maintenance and better security for the area.
The entire project was also an opportunity for new experience using the Gomos construction system developed by Summary: the engineering systems (plumbing, electrical and air-con) for each house are external and fitted within a single separate module.
Paradinha is made up of 11 chalets, of four different types, ranging from 28 to 58 m2. They are dotted over the landscape following the natural contours of the site, altering it as little as possible: the existing old stone walls and trees have been conserved, with the cabins carefully arranged around these. The positionings within this cluster could seem arbitrary but the different alignments mean the units do not block each other's views. In fact, the wood ‒ and the river in some cases ‒ can be seen from the balcony of every home.
Location: Aldeia da Paradinha, Alvarenga (Portugal)
Client: Hotel SYNTONY
Built area: 512 m2
Architect: Summary Architects
Building Structures And Networks: FTS Technical Solutions
Electricity And Communications: ARproj
Photography by Fernando Guerra | FG+SG, courtesy of Summary