Project: A Saramaga House
Architecture: Duarte Caldas Architectural Design (DC.AD)
Project Manager: Catarina Mascarenhas
Team: Mariana Marques; Martin Zeliar
Location: Cartaxo, Portugal
Completion: July 2021
Photography: Francisco Nogueira
Text by Duarte Caldas
A Saramaga House is a project that consists of the refurbishment of a residential building in Cartaxo, about 60km north of Lisbon. The project was developed for a young couple, connected to the art world, who left the capital to find somewhere secluded to live and at the same time implement a programme of artistic residencies. A Saramaga was the name thoughtfully bestowed on the property as a way of paying tribute to a former midwife in the town, whose image was taken up by the local community as a symbol of birth and the celebration of life.
The architectural features of the building were quite unusual, with exaggerated and disconnected elements and references, which resulted in a rather disjointed combination of the whole. The main challenge of the project was the quest to find an aesthetic, formal and functional coherence that would resignify the existing architectural setting.
On the outside, all secondary elements, such as low walls and paved walkways were eliminated, the openings were redesigned and the exterior flat surfaces were painted in textured shades of beige and white for an explicit identification of the different volumetric structures. The existing water mirror was transformed into a swimming pool and by manipulating the patio’s pavement levels, new platforms were created to allow different types of appropriations of the outdoor space.
Inside, the organisation of the spaces has generally been maintained. The entrance is on the west side, at a point that separates the social areas from the private areas. An open kitchen was positioned in the centre of the building, favourably placed in relation to the private and social parts of the house, to the exterior and to the swimming pool. It is a functional transition area, offering an access through to the living room area. This main social area is generously proportioned and is the noble space of the A Saramaga house, notable for its high ceiling and the easy permeability with the exterior. The wooden beams on the ceiling provide a more welcoming scale to the space and support the skylights that bring in the natural light. Below the skylights, a concrete platform with different levels incorporates a sitting area, a long coffee table and a plant pot to bring a touch of natural vegetation to the space – this feature also sets up the longitudinal organisation of the room, in one simple gesture. A large table in natural red travertine stone was also designed, reaffirming the proportion of the space.
In the private wing of the house, the small patios to the south let light into the bedrooms and toilets. Each toilet is marked by the use of a different colour, punctuated by the natural stone washbasins combined in exactly the same shade. The master suite is notable for combining a living and working area, in close proximity to the swimming pool, with a long white dressing room that includes dissimulated accesses to the separate toilet and shower area.
Inside, the use of continuous textured coatings, such as the beige and white of the walls or the cement on the floor match the logic used for the exterior surfaces. This helps to confer a uniformity on the whole, while offering a welcoming and immersive experience of the various spaces.