Inspired by the limestone caves of central Portugal, Leiria-based Contaminar Arquitetos has crafted Casa Povo, a unique three-bedroom, two-bath home that more strongly resembles the rocky terroir than its traditional brick neighbors.
Built entirely of concrete with a jagged, asymmetrical form, Casa Povo was conceived in the likeness of a cave. “It’s an austere, carved, and denticulated refuge that is humanized by its occupants,” explain the architects. “This premise is a look and a tribute to the beginnings of humanity and its symbiotic relationship with the environment it inhabits; it contains in itself the paradox of the perennial and harsh stones that become a natural and maternal refuge.”
To strengthen Casa Povo’s ties to the terrain, the architects allowed the sloped site to inform its massing, which comprises two and a half levels that step downward from south to north. Floor-to-ceiling glazing as well as a south-facing courtyard blur the boundary between indoors and out.
Designing a place for the family to live was only part of the brief. The clients, one of whom is a music teacher, also asked for an office and piano room where they could receive clientele and students. In addition to the family’s private entrance on the southeast side of the home, the architects created two secondary entrances—one on the southwest side and the other on the north—to give visitors direct access to the office/music room without going through the house.
“Casa Povo respects and adapts the cut of the land in relation to its original layout, and differentiates itself in a subtle and delicate way to maintain a harmonious relationship between the public and the private,” say the architects.
Imagined as a promontory, the home also takes advantage of its elevated views. Deep roof overhangs provide shade to the northwest-facing concrete terraces that look toward stunning sunsets. The upper terrace also connects to the roof to provide panoramic vistas overlooking the town.
“The need to connect spaces creates a strong narrative of spatial distribution while guiding the rhythm and composition of the shape of the architectural object,” explain the architects. “The exposed concrete with wooden slatted formwork dates back to a density that follows a monolithic volumetric and creates the protection that inspires it: a humanized cave.”