Rocked by the financial crisis, Portugal’s cities became a landscape of abandoned buildings, says architect Daniel Zamarbide. Inspired by the spirit of renovation that seized Lisbon in the aftermath, Zamarbide worked with Leopold Banchini Architects to transform a historic Lisbon property into a striking, cost-effective dwelling for his family.
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Completed in eight months, the dwelling is not so much an adaptive reuse project as it is a new build that recycles the historic street facade to maintain a sense of continuity with its neighbors. Inside the skinny building is a light-filled layout that creatively slots three bedrooms and living spaces into approximately 1,000 square feet.
"The Dodged house was designed and built around the idea of space, void and interior volume," Zamarbide says. "This idea appeared in the design process as a symmetrical section—one that gives the same value to the void as to the occupied space."
"From this more theoretical idea, we worked on a modular plan, a sort of Existenzminimum (subsistence dwelling) that gave birth to the smaller plan of the first floor. We wanted the rooms to work as hotel rooms, as a complete entity where one can sort of isolate and have everything, but very simply."
Spread out across four floors, the dwelling begins with a 430-square-foot ground floor with an open-plan dining area, kitchen, and living room that opens up to the outdoor patio through a massive pivoting arched door. Above are three floors—successively measuring 108 square feet, 129 square feet, and 161 square feet in size (excluding the bathrooms)—that can be used as bedrooms, although the topmost floor is currently used as a study. Glass partitions allow for living room views from every floor.
The dwelling pays tribute, in both design and name, to the Walter L. Dodge House, a famous Early Modern-style home designed by American architect Irving Gill at the turn of the 20th century in southern California. The house, despite its architectural significance, was demolished in 1970.
"The very particular modernity that he established as the basis of his practice seems to perfectly echo the Portuguese context (the same way as Gill’s architecture was understood to develop from the Missions in California)," Zamarbide explains.
"On the other hand, as a trace of the time in which the Dodged house was designed and built, it has preferred to keep its eyes closed and opaque facade, and it has bet on a less marketable feature—space, void, interior volume that refuses efficiency of land use. Within a rather small plot, the Dodged house has privileged a strong section and a contemplative void, proposing a diversity of interior/exterior spaces that extend into a courtyard."
To save on costs, the design team used simple and traditional construction techniques throughout—save for the large pivot window made by Much More than a Window that required complex workmanship—and they tapped into local materials and Portuguese labor. All materials are left unfinished as well— another budget-friendly decision that captures the architect’s vision for a "living machine."
"In the end, the Dodged house is quite a simple and readable project," Zamarbide adds. "Although it might be complex in its inscription into the urban fabric and historical context, it is nevertheless quite straightforward in the way it occupies space and distributes the program in a small plot."
Related Reading: Spotlight on Portugal: 7 Epic Modern Spaces
Builder/General Contractor: AC Maias - Engenharia e Construção, lda
Structural Engineer: BETAR - Estudos e Projectos de Estabilidade, lda
Civil Engineer: BETAR - Estudos e Projectos de Estabilidade, lda
Construction Supervision: SOPSEC, SA