Bak Gordon lift cues from the traditional architectural vernacular of southern Portugal’s Alentejo region in their Casa Azul project, designed as a series of indoor and outdoor refuges to escape to the country’s sweltering summer heat.
The municipality of Grândola, located in Alentejo, is renowned for its red wine, vast olive groves, rolling hills and cork forests. It’s here where a group of four friends decided to purchase four plots of land together, engaging Lisbon-based architecture firm Bak Gordon to sensitively construct a holiday home that appears as an extension of the arid landscape. Through considered openings and sheltered retreats, this Portuguese family holiday home cultivates conversation and togetherness for its inhabitants.
The two main turret-like rooms on either side of the holiday house mark what Bak Gordon founder and director Ricardo Bak Gordon calls ‘the beginning and the end’. These spaces – ‘fresco’ rooms, translating to ‘cool’ or ‘fresh’ rooms – lean on the ideals of ancient architecture found in the south of Portugal, providing visitors respite from the torrid heat through strategic planning. “In southern Portugal, people live a lot in transitional spaces between the interior and the exterior; these fresco rooms are where people spend the most time in the house,” Ricardo says.
The east-facing fresco room has a traditional wood-burning oven and a 12-seater dining table, where guests can sit at the table overlooking the blue pool. The west-facing fresco room offers a place to pause, adjust and watch the late afternoon sunset over the Alentejo countryside. Nestled between the two fresco rooms, a long corridor contains the living room, filled with vintage furniture and eclectic handmade ceramics. A central courtyard at the core of the home introduces a natural light source, accessible via a corridor that leads to three bedrooms with private terraces.
“We like to think about how we relate to the landscape. The relationship should not be too open, especially in Alentejo – on the contrary, the idea of framing, as if it were a living painting, pleases us.
– Bak Gordon director Ricardo Bak Gordon
Situated between both fresco rooms, the living area is filled with tactile vintage pieces and ceramic planters.
One of the multiple entrances into the home is through an outdoor stairwell from the garage.
Bak Gordon have taken to the home’s earth-toned surroundings and lined it entirely with terracotta lime mortar to create a sense of continuity between the building and the landscape. “We decided to cover the building with a material that is widely used in the south, a lime mortar, with an added pigment to reduce the contrast between the artificiality of the house and the surrounding landscape,” Ricardo says.
To keep materials to a minimum, Bak Gordon also clad the floor, ceiling and interior walls in this same pigmented lime mortar as the exterior, creating a fluid connection to both the exterior and the desert-like terrain of Grândola. Underneath this lime mortar is a layer of cork for insulation and breathability – an obvious form of insulation for a home in the cork capital of the world.
Casa Azul by Bak Gordon sets the standard for a new calibre of family and group accommodation in Portugal through authentic century-old living rituals and a floorplan informed by the routine movements of the sun.