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The Hill Cork House

Contaminar Arquitectos

The Hill Cork House
By Caterina Testa -

The hills above Leiria in central Portugal are covered with vineyards, olive groves and cork oak woods. Yet the single-family homes that have sprung up over the last few decades have turned it into a somewhat untidy fabric, neither town nor countryside.
The detached house designed by Contaminar Arquitectos is a decidedly new addition. It declares its presence by its seeming invisibility: a “non-house” nestling silently into its site, camouflaged so as not to impose upon its surrounds.
Orientation and the sequenced programme take their cue from the rigorous geometry of the cultivated rows nearby. The building’s exterior surfaces adopt both the materials and colours of the place.
On the east side, the gravel-covered roof is on a level with the road. At this end, the building lies practically underground, hidden from view. Ramps lead down to the belowground entrance. Camouflaged by stone and gravel, form and surface claddings do their best to blot out the man-made presence. On the west side, the building emerges more definitely in a series of solid and void blocks facing the open countryside. The alternating sequence of blind and open elevations reflects an interior layout of alternating service and living environments.
The linear western façade is interrupted by the large protruding volume of a covered swimming pool, its framed glazed frontage reaching out towards the valley. The indoor pool also forms a buffer separating the living and the night areas.
All external surfaces are clad in either cork or stone. Materials, colours and smells are harnessed to achieve the programme’s self-effacing aim. Frame and roof are in stone; cork enhances the sequence of solids and voids and allows the volume to meld into the cork-oak wood to the west. Colours and textures also change with the season. With time the cork will become darker and warmer, blending even further into its context.
The idea of creating an...

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