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Elegantly Turned Inwards: House in Portugal by

Around 50 km south of Porto, in the small town of Avanca, there was once a vacant lot between two houses. In order to create private space amid the urban buildings, the design concentrates on the south side of the lot, which faces away from the road. The L-shaped volume stands on a plinth which balances the 85-cm difference in the height of the lot at each end of the house. Facing the street, the building has a paved forecourt, which leads to the garage.

In order to mitigate the massiveness of the house, the two-storey structure has been visually divided horizontally into three equal parts. These three stacked layers form the system that houses the openings. The borders of the layers determine the upper and lower edges of the openings. The inner corner of the building is turned towards the lowest layer of the right-hand structure and is slightly recessed. This creates a niche for the main entrance to the house. It accentuates the entryway situation and provides shelter from the rain to those who wish to enter.

The roof addition and sliding doors on either side of the garage represent a break with the smooth exposed-concrete surfaces. They have been clad with narrow, vertical wooden slatting. In addition to the tripartition of the house, the visible anchor holes in the concrete add a certain rhythm to the façade.

When visitors enter the house, they immediately find themselves opposite an olive tree in a generous niche on the west façade. The protruding, rounded bottom step of the wooden stairway entices guests to go upstairs, where the private rooms are found. The rooftop terrace is accessed from the master suite; from there, another stairway leads down to the pool. As needed, this exterior stairway from the rooftop terrace can be closed with the sliding door on the rear side of the garage.

The spaces on the ground floor are entirely devoted to living together and working. The living and dining room, with its adjacent kitchen, faces south and opens onto the pool through a long pane of glass. In the living room, as on the terrace, a poured-concrete bench grows out of the wall.

It is details such as the rounded handrail, the stair stringers, whose light-grey shade sets a discreet contrast, and the use of a limited canon of materials that give this house its subtle quality.
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