The houses on the sand

A weekend house project that turned into a Venice Architecture Biennial entry and a very particular hotel …

In 2010, the Aires Mateus brothers were invited by a friend to do a rehabilitation project for one of a group of three traditional small houses (or more accurately, auxiliary buildings) in the Natural Reserve of Sado Estuary, at Comporta, one hour drive southern from Lisbon. The project then evolved into rehabilitation of all three and building a new pavilion, combining old and new materials and at the same time respecting the spirit of the place and local building traditions.

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So reed was introduced instead of roof tiles, and small interventions were undertaken on the façades and in the interiors of existing buildings. The new building was constructed of wood and reed too. All in all, two are of wood and reed, and two are of firmer materials. The little yard that all the buildings are opening to is their binding element as well.

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And what do the sandy floors mean? The architects said inspiration was coming from an exhibition in the Tate Modern they visited at the time when the project was being developed (exactly the installation with talc created by Cildo Meireles). By introducing sand into the living spaces, everyday life was made much slower and the perception of time changed, explains Francesca Vita in the 2013 monograph on Aires Mateus brothers I’m currently reading.

For now, there’s no way to experience the place in person, as the stay costs 500 – 600 EUR a day, depending on the season. But someday, who knows …

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