Located north-east of Porto, Portugal, the city of Braga is situated amongst a natural environment of hills, forests, and valleys. With a rich historical context that dates back thousands of years, the city was constructed over time with a prominent image of ornate churches and old structures. In recent years, Braga became a location for developments with a more contemporary outlook due to its topographical advantages. Projects such as House in Nogueiró by AZO Arquitectos utilises the existing geography to create a home that returns its characteristics to the mountainous landscapes.
The three-storey building cascades down a slanting hill, protected by a barrier of interlocking stones. Behind the rough fencing surface is a continuous facade of exposed concrete, which is texturised with the imprints of timber moulds. Occasionally, green vines drape the geometric form in juxtaposition to peeks of green shrubs inside its courtyards. These speckles of greenery give a softness to the exterior, linking it with the surroundings.
Seen from afar, the topmost volume of House in Nogueiró emerges like a floating mass. Here above, the 4 bedrooms share a common balcony overlooking the valley of Braga. Next to the metal staircase that connects all three floors lies a modest window that opens up to the garden below, where a hidden body of water resides in perfect stillness. Running along the crisp-edged pool is a strip of vegetation stretching below trees of vibrant blossoms.
Inside, the grey palette extends with the use of monochromatic furniture and floors made of ataíja stone. Lighting fixtures, in contrast, emit a warm light onto walls of natural wood formwork for a cozy living space. Its open plan is accommodated by full-height windows that run on all sides, linking pockets of green space that embrace the vicinity of the house.
Descending onto the ground floor, where the building meets the main street, the horizontal landscape is shifted vertically to reveal walls of natural granite. Found on site, this physical context is used by the architect as an integration onto the design, creating a tactical surface that departs from the clean and seamless planes of this minimalist dwelling.
As the sun sets on the eastern horizon of Braga City, House in Nogueiró assertively appears like a futuristic installation of a cinematic set. By incorporating modern aesthetics into the existing geography, the project cleverly reminds us of contributing elements to a built space rather than the built space itself.