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Somewhere in Afife

Building Pictures, Guilherme Machado Vaz

End of summer in Portugal: the white residential project by Guilherme Machado Vaz sporting an anti-façade.


Set in the last day of summer, "Somewhere in Afife" is the latest film by the Portuguese company Building Pictures for the architect Guilherme Machado Vaz, whose "João’s House" we recently featured as part of the series on the 2018 Simon Architecture Prize.

The house is built in the north of Portugal, near a sandy wild beach and a small village - this rural settlement was established at the foot of the hill and expanded in the nearby area, slowly progressing toward the sea. As the screen titles say, it is the last day of summer: the holiday season is ending and a nostalgic air is descending over all things.

We are guided inside the house by a man wearing a yellow t-shirt and a white pair of trousers: shortly after we realize that this choice of colors is an essential part of the film. The building by Guilherme Machado Vaz, in fact, is a white compact and vertical volume, "evoking the essence of a traditional type of construction in the region of Minho", and when the shutters are closed looks like an abstract white cube without any gaps. However, once opened, southern facing shutters reveal a golden interior side, a nice twist that makes this house really pop out. This side of the house faces an old chapel, so those shutters remind, in an abstract way, the medieval religious paintings in a triptych.

Regarding the façade, architect Machado Vaz said that "the façade is its own denial, it is an anti-façade. It cancels an interior, suggesting only matter" and added that "it would become an abstract sculpture if the two copper gargoyles did not denounce a functional concern. The ornamental exaggeration of those gargoyles contrasts with the dryness of the façade".

The tour around the house will reveal the presence of a swimming pool in the backyard, but what is striking is the difference between exterior and interior space: in contrast with the minimalist façade, Machado took inspiration from vernacular architecture in the choice of materialities. He also designed half-floors, pointing out that only a posteriori he realized that "this association of spatial elements carries with it some 'Loosian' reminiscences".

Interior spaces let people moving freely in it, making it a perfect space for gatherings and family reunions. While the eastern darkness descends over the village, the house becomes a refuge: summer is over, let's stay inside.

(Story by Sara Marzullo, The Architecture Player)

Authors icon Credits

Mentioned project: Casa em Afife (2018)
Project location: Afife, Portugal
Director, camera and editor: Sara Nunes
Music: Blue dot session - Arctic Draba (creative commons)
Sound design: Ana Pedro

Portugal 2018
Duration: 3'41"