A Portuguese summer home exemplifies adaptive reuse and the romance of an untamed coast.
“The balance of man and nature is still something very powerful on this island.” Architects Ines Vieira da Silva and Miguel Vieira speak in reverent tones about Pico Island, where a long-in-the-works summer home designed by their firm, SAMI-arquitectos, was finished after eight years of work. Since Portuguese settlers arrived in the 15th century and set down roots on the island’s volcanic soil, the small outcropping in the Azores has been a place where “people had to have the strength to transform a very adverse context in order to survive,” Vieira da Silva says. That romance with the windswept coast, and the contrasting elements of sea, sky, and stone, could just as easily be applied to the E/C House, a low-slung escape set inside a stone shell that was made from the remains of an 18th-century coastal farmhouse. Dwell spoke to Vieira da Silva about the roughhewn structure.
Initially unassuming, the E/C home appears hidden from the road, perched on the sloping edge of the island and partially wrapped in the basalt walls from an 18th-century farmhouse. Architects Ines Vieira da Silva and and Miguel Vieira approached the site with a vision to create a relationship with the landscape; they designed the 2,600-square-foot holiday home to not only be a simple escape, but also to frame the weathered coast and reflect its past. “Both paths to the house were designed with basalt stone, as if they were still a rural path,” Vieira da Silva says.
In keeping with the island’s rugged character, the new home was pared down to the essentials. Even the floor in the living room, elevated during the construction process to give seated guests sight lines of the coast, helped frame the outdoors. With this philosophy in mind, Vieira da Silva sourced and designed simple, light furniture, such as the custom bookshelves made from “criptoméria," a type of Japanese wood planted in the Azores for construction. The floor lamp, a Sampei model by Davide Groppi, is set above a Lamino Easy Chair by Swedese. Both the sofa and table are also Swedese.
The new concrete exterior has already been transformed by the rain and humidity of the Azores, and now sports an aged look. The color contrasts with the basalt wall and dark soil of the Ilha Preta ("Black Island"). Vieira da Silva anticipates that surprising patterns and textures will develop on the outer walls over time.
Built as part of a functional farmhouse, the original building's ground floor was used to store food and animals, a situation that didn't exactly call for expansive views or large amounts of natural light. Vieira da Silva maintained a similar layout over the two-story home, with social areas on the upper floor and bedrooms on the ground floor, but opened up the lower level with large windows. "With the pre-existing stone walls we created patios, keeping a distance [between the walls] so we could have big openings, and create a close and intense relationship with the landscape and the ruin itself."
Strategic openings on the ground floor provide a clear view of the ocean.
The quiet, minimalist kitchen features a wall in the same “criptoméria" wood used for the bookshelf in the living room. A Davide Groppi Punto 2 PL light hangs over the dining table.
At dusk, the home's light illuminates the lines and layers of the aged stone, casting shadows on the lawn.
Warm wooden walls ensure the simple bedroom setup, a low mattress next to a Muuto Leaf table lamp, offers more comfort than the cold stone exterior.