Portuguese architect Marco Arraiolos has designed a house in Mexilhoeira Grande, Portimão, in southwestern Portugal. The house's southern exposure and views over the mouth of the river in the estuary of Alvor allow the project to invert the logic of the immediately social or private.
All private and service areas — bedrooms, bathroom and laundry — are located at ground level. These spaces are further guarded visually by unfinished wood-plank fences, providing a subtle contrast with the solid, white volumetric elements of the apartments.
On this "foundation" rests a top floor with sloping roof, descending to the south, resulting in a terrace that develops along the whole façade. On this floor are the social areas — living room, dining room and kitchen —, taking advantage of the exposure, views, and the terraced outdoor area, sheltered from the prevailing northern winds by the construction itself.
This site-specific and environmentally-tuned architecture not only provides energy efficiency, but also turns site challenges into opportunity, by maximizing privacy and views simultaneously.
The sloping white roof allows a partial occupation of the highest floor, and gives a monolithic character to the building, broken only by the terraced massing scheme itself. The architects sought a minimal intervention on the existing topography, choosing to only slightly change the dimensions of the predefined threshold and fence. The move to the south "undoes" the volume and allows it to follow the slope where it penetrates, minimizing the impact of construction while seeking a certain recollection and privacy, on the south terrace, from the street access at the north side of the house.