Two Ponds Bookend This Concrete-and-Wood Residence in Portugal

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By Michele Koh Morollo
Braga–based firm Carvalho Araújo takes advantage of the ponds and stream that surround this dazzling, modern residence in Peneda-Gerês National Park.

Sited on a steep slope near a stream in Portugal’s famous Peneda-Gerês National Park in the northern part of the country, Gerês House by Carvalho Araújo is the reincarnation of a previously existing building. The home, previously at the top of the incline, was demolished and rebuilt to withstand the occasional landslides that occur in the area. 

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The owner wanted a place to relax on weekends with his wife and three young children, and to enjoy his passions: art, architecture, and friends. He also uses the house as a showroom for his products and for business meetings.

The owner wanted a place to relax on weekends with his wife and three young children, and to enjoy his passions: art, architecture, and friends. He also uses the house as a showroom for his products and for business meetings.

The new construction relates with the land in a very spontaneous way, taking advantage of its steep slope, the small stream, and the extraordinary view of the landscape.

The new construction relates with the land in a very spontaneous way, taking advantage of its steep slope, the small stream, and the extraordinary view of the landscape.

The site overlooks the Caniçada Valley and has a stream winding down the site that connects a pond and at the top of the hillside to another pond at the bottom of the hill. Carvalho Araújo transformed both these ponds into natural, freeform pools. 

The owner of the house—founder of Ecosteel, a company that designs and manufactures minimalist but high-performance framing systems in steel and aluminum—created the motorized, 18-foot-tall glass sliders that bracket the living area.

The owner of the house—founder of Ecosteel, a company that designs and manufactures minimalist but high-performance framing systems in steel and aluminum—created the motorized, 18-foot-tall glass sliders that bracket the living area.

The house consists of a wood volume and a concrete volume.

The house consists of a wood volume and a concrete volume.

The entry to the property is located at the top of the hill, where long straight stairs lead down from the driveway at the roof level into the entry courtyard, where a glass wall frames views of the living room and the landscape beyond. 

A section of the concrete volume cantilevers above the brook that connects the two ponds.

A section of the concrete volume cantilevers above the brook that connects the two ponds.

A sheltered hot tub outdoors.

A sheltered hot tub outdoors.

The 10,226-square-feet concrete, steel, and glass house comprises two elements—a concrete base and a large, wooden volume that cantilevers over the land and the pond at the bottom of the hill.   

Surrounding the dining table, which was also designed by the architect Carvalho Araújo, are chairs designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira. 

Surrounding the dining table, which was also designed by the architect Carvalho Araújo, are chairs designed by the Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira. 

The house consists of a large horizontal platform that extends over the landscape, and a vertical wall in an L shape that hugs the rocky ground, so it appears as if the house is embedded in its site. 

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The leather sofas in the living area are designed by Brazilian designer Jose Rodrigues. 

The leather sofas in the living area are designed by Brazilian designer Jose Rodrigues. 

The volume of the house is defined by a light metal structure, which separates from the concrete elements, and works simultaneously as a connection between the two horizontal and vertical planes. 

The customized kitchen cabinets and the bathroom fixtures were designed by Carvalho Araújo. 

The customized kitchen cabinets and the bathroom fixtures were designed by Carvalho Araújo. 

"We did not look for a conventional program, but rather broad, functional, and multipurpose spaces, where leisure and work can be mixed," says the studio’s founder Jose Manuel Carvalho Araújo, who explains that the idea for house originated through the desire to incorporate the two natural ponds on the site. 

An elongated master bedroom.

An elongated master bedroom.

The social space of the house assumes a special importance and was located within a large central hall that extends to the outdoors through a large balcony. 

Two single beds in one of the guest bedrooms.

Two single beds in one of the guest bedrooms.

The kitchen and services are on the same floor along this central hall. The more private spaces are located on the mezzanine level.

An industrial-inspired bathroom has fixtures that look like sections of cut pipes.

An industrial-inspired bathroom has fixtures that look like sections of cut pipes.

"The definition of small platforms along the ponds allowed us to structure the functional organization and paths of the land," says Araújo. "At the same time, it determined the relationship between the natural elements and the new construction."

A large pond at the bottom of the site is transformed into a swimming pool.

A large pond at the bottom of the site is transformed into a swimming pool.

Gerés House cross sectional plan

Gerés House cross sectional plan

Project Credits: 

Architecture: Carvalho Araújo, Arquitectura e Design / @ateliercarvalhoaraujo

Builder: PEDRALBET

Structural engineering: Metalúrgica de Viana 

Landscape design: JBJC, Arquitectos Paisagistas

Photography: NUDO