Where the Wild Things Aren't

By Kieran Long
In Vieira do Minho, a small village in northern Portugal, Guilherme Vaz designed a fortresslike retreat that embraces the natural landscape while keeping it at bay.

"Nature to me is something quite frightening," says the diminutive Guilherme Vaz, as we walk around the expansive site of the Valley House, a weekend home the young architect designed for his father in the village of Vieira do Minho in the north of Portugal. "Nature is so strong here. I wanted all the natural things to be on the outside."

With its simple rectangular form, the house has an infrastructural presence in the landscape, making it appear as if the house itself is holding back the steep hill.

With its simple rectangular form, the house has an infrastructural presence in the landscape, making it appear as if the house itself is holding back the steep hill.


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The Valley House flows down along the site, integrating smoothly into the sloping hills. A view from the rambling path behind the house gives a clear view of the green roof and the not-so-green swimming pool on top of it.

The Valley House flows down along the site, integrating smoothly into the sloping hills. A view from the rambling path behind the house gives a clear view of the green roof and the not-so-green swimming pool on top of it.


Vaz, whose practice is in Porto, harbors a city-dweller’s skepticism of nature. It may be beautiful, but it is also full of bugs that might trigger anaphylactic shock in your children. Vaz is not one to speak platitudes about blurring boundaries between inside and out, and in many ways, the Valley House is a bulwark of sorts: What is artificial is contained within this concrete shoebox of a building, and what’s wild is kept out, observable from generous terraces and huge windows.
The veranda is the Valley House’s defining feature and serves as a communal space for the family to sit and enjoy nature. The more traditional rattan furniture fits well with Vaz’s local vernacular, as the Portuguese were the first to bring rattan to the West from the East.

The veranda is the Valley House’s defining feature and serves as a communal space for the family to sit and enjoy nature. The more traditional rattan furniture fits well with Vaz’s local vernacular, as the Portuguese were the first to bring rattan to the West from the East.


 
A Le Corbusier chaise longue invites guests to relax in front of the stunning panoramic view.

A Le Corbusier chaise longue invites guests to relax in front of the stunning panoramic view.


Vaz took on this project while he was still a student, and his psychiatrist father proved an ideal client for an ambitious young architect. "He wasn’t really very interested. I would say to him, ‘I’m thinking of maybe four rooms instead of five.’ And he would say, ‘Oh,