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(Baião, Portugal) by Eduardo Souto de Moura
The first is Eduardo Souto de Moura's weekend house in the remote northern town of Baião, Portugal. We were introduced to this project early in our education and spent part of our honeymoon there. The region is known for its stone-terraced hillsides and port wine vineyards. The architect inserted a small house directly within a terrace adjacent to the stone ruin of an old house. The terrace appears to peel apart, revealing a discreet modern insertion within the earth itself, its glass sliding doors reflecting the river valley beyond. Within the house the spaces have been kept small and spare, focusing all attention to the framed view of the Bestança River joining the Douro River on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. The project is a very elegant and unassuming insertion to the landscape.
(Paris, France) by Pierre Chareau
The second is Pierre Chareau's Maison de Verre in Paris. The intensely intricate nature of the building's detailing, coupled with a stunning glass-block facade and steel-framing system, make this unique within Paris's vast stock of housing units. Thanks in large part to Annie Dalsace's patronage of the arts, Pierre Chareau was given the freedom to elaborate on, and in some cases reinvent, common building systems (stairs, walls, window mechanisms, etc.). The recent book by Dominique Vellay, granddaughter of Annie and Jean Dalsace, puts a beautifully human touch to the machine-like building.
(Vals, Switzerland) by Peter Zumthor
Peter Zumthor's Thermal Bath Complex in Vals, Switzerland, is an intensely pleasurable architectural experience. This is a series of spaces that facilitate a sensory experience through water and bathing among rich textural walls of stone and concrete. The experience does not necessarily highlight the formal organization of spaces (we'd be hard-pressed to draw a floor plan of the complex). Instead you leave with the memory of watching snow fall on the Alps through an impossibly huge sheet of glass while resting in a chaise longue or of feeling snowflakes landing on your shoulders while wading in a warm pool.