Aires Mateus’ brick retreat in the Portuguese landscape

House in Melides I is an isolated and intimate property, immersed in the landscape. Composed of a succession of open and roofed spaces, the house is defined by an irregular grid.

It has been called the "unexpected playground for architecture's elite" [1]: the territory of Comporta, about an hour's drive from Lisbon, is an unspoilt area characterised by white beaches and red earth, pine forests and vernacular huts built by the Espírito Santo family, who owned the land until 2014.

Described as the equivalent of the Hamptons in Portugal, in recent years Comporta has become a destination – or refuge – for celebrities who want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of urban life and be inspired by its raw landscape.

The area has thus become a territory of experimentation for a number of international architects, such as Vincent van Duysen, Philippe Stark and Manuel Aires Mateus. The latter, the local archistar, has worked on several projects in the area, including the House in Melides I.

Aires Mateus, House in Melides I, Grândola, Portugal, 2019
Aires Mateus, House in Melides I, Grândola, Portugal, 2019

The village of Melides, about twenty kilometres south of Comporta, has been chosen as a new hot spot for architects, given the scarcity of available space in the nearby town (and the consequent increase in prices).

House in Melides I is an isolated building, the only construction on a property of about 40 hectares, which seems to grow out of the site itself. The main material of the project is bricks, which have been manufactured locally, acquiring the colours of the landscape.

The spatial organisation of the house follows a compositional strategy the Portuguese architect uses frequently, as in the projects for Casa Alvalade, the school in Vila Nova da Barquinha, or the Casa de Alentejo: once a regular perimeter – a square – has been defined, Aires Mateus sets up a succession of volumes and voids with an irregular grid. This generates ever-changing paths with spaces, both indoor and outdoor, in which the various domestic functions intertwine with a series of gardens, each offering unique experiences, atmospheres, colours, smells and uses. 

Aires Mateus, House in Melides I, Grândola, Portugal, 2019
Aires Mateus, House in Melides I, Grândola, Portugal, 2019

Defined by brick walls, the rectangular spaces vary in width and length, but have a constant height. The main rooms of the house orbit around the main courtyard in the centre of the plan. The bedrooms are in the outer parts of the large square, protected by a series of patios designed as a buffer between public and private spaces.

This structure offers ample possibilities for future transformations: it will be possible to increase the volume of the residence or demolish some parts without losing the formal rigour of the project.

House in Melides I
Grândola, Portugal
Aires Mateus
Project architect:
Manuel Aires Mateus
João Esteves, Maria Rebelo Pinto, François Brunner, Marco Campolongo, Matteo Foresti, Mariana Mayer, Mizuho Anzai, Bernardo Sousa, Mariana Pires, Rui Cardoso, Maria Vale, Sergi Sauras, Constança Eiras, Inês Potes
Interior design:
Maria Rebelo Pinto
Manuel Mateus Frazão
590 sqm
From Gisela Williams' article in Surface Mag: “How One Laid-Back Portuguese Beach Town Became an Unexpected Playground for Architecture’s Elite”

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