In a naturally fragmented and disconnected context, the Gafarim House by Tiago do Vale Arquitectos offers monolithic, opaque volumes to the street, citing the compact, parallelepipedic masses of northern Portuguese popular architecture and adjusting its scale to the surroundings. Located in Ponte de Lima, Portugal, it appears with autonomy in its context -an independent object among independent objects- and, in its economy of shape and detailing, it distances itself from the post-rural decorativism that is the norm in today’s Portuguese countryside.
This exterior formal economy is contrasted with a generous, high-ceilinged, expansive interior space that incorporates the remote landscape. The entrance is a long transitional moment and a space in itself. Evolving from the exterior, covered arrival space to its interior extension, from shadow to light and from opaque to transparent, this progressive contrast is an important representation of the duplicities and contradictions that define the theme of the project.
After the compressed, conditioned entering movement the space expands to a double-height volume that houses the social program of the house, reuniting under the same roof kitchen, dining and living room, citing the domestic organization of this region’s vernacular homes. This is a space of great transparency, relating through a generous glass wall with the plot and the wide Minho views.
In spite of its transparency, opening to the northeast allows for a controlled relationship with natural light. Bathing in the morning light reflected by the water mirror and backlit by the infiltrating afternoon sun descending from the mezzanine, the changing natural light animates the architecture throughout the day and throughout the year.
Without any explicit separation, the private section of the house develops autonomously, with all bedrooms faced towards the southeast. A small interior patio serves both the master bedroom and the bathrooms. This patio is a device that allows the creation of a space that, though formally inside of the house, is symbolically apart.
Between vernacular and contemporary references, between blind volumes and open planes, the Gafarim House is a project about contradiction, opposition and provocation condensed in a simple, pragmatic structure.