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The construction of villa alem excerpt iii cover 960 540
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The Construction of Villa Além (EXCERPT III)

Ana Resende

The unveiling of a unique house.


The landscape of the Portuguese region of Alenteyo is unique. Somewhere near the coast, the Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati and his wife Tamara found a spot to build a house to live in for part of the year. Matching personal desires with one’s work life represents an achievement that should be documented to record the passion and effort required. The filmmakers Ana Resende, Miguel C. Tavares, Rui Manuel Vieira and Tiago Costa were involved in this story, having being challenged by the architect to document the building process. They had free reign and after a long period of careful observation they released "The Construction of Villa Além".

The house is based on a long-conceived design that materialized into significant contemporary architecture. Its planning and construction were carried out with the utmost care. Olgiati's "buen retiro" derives from the intention to create a secluded garden in among that special countryside. The architecture is almost introverted, with the living spaces mostly facing the inner green courtyard. At the same time the strong and distinct geometries of the four concrete walls delimiting the yard turn the building into a habitable sculpture in the landscape, and some broad openings onto it frame the surrounding hills.

The film follows the construction of the house. Step by step in slow rhythm the unique elements of the house are unveiled, such as forms, details and its relationship with the landscape. The camera meanders onto the building site and records some relevant moments of the process. Rather than following the linear construction path from the beginning to the end of the works, the film conveys the atmosphere of the building site, where careful attention is paid and patient evaluations are made. This is a special piece of architecture, uniting form and aesthetics and demanding great skill in its manufacturing. Time is required for the process to be successful, and the camera leisurely observes the process.

In this excerpt, the observer follows the planting of two trees in the inner garden. This is a key moment as it represents the core of the house. At night, everything is carefully managed and the architect is the last one there, verifying and checking everything is in place. Plants contrast with the architectural shapes and patterns of the concrete walls, even as the evening descends into darkness.

"Throughout the film,” as reported by the filmmakers, “Villa Além appears forever incomplete, forever under construction. The building process is a spectrum here, or perhaps, an excuse for an opportunity to document and experience a rare work. What is suggested is a journey through time to arrive at the inception of the idea. In the film, as in the house, one is left helpless in the succession of shots, alone with the images and the sounds, freed from words that might direct you, hoping that mystery and seduction may be found within the minimum of means and expressions."

(Story by Paola Ricco, The Architecture Player)

Authors icon Credits

Architect: Valerio Olgiati Architect
Mentioned project: Villa Alem (2013-2014)
Project location: Alentejo, Portugal
Produced by: Ana Resende
Filmed by: Miguel C. Tavares, Rui Manuel Vieira, Tiago Costa
Montage by: Miguel C. Tavares, Tiago Costa
Color: Rui Manuel Vieira
Sound design and post-production: Eduardo Magalhães, José Ricardo Barboza

Portugal 2017
Duration: 3'45"