Big wave surfer José Gregório commissioned architect Jorge Graça Costa to design a house perched on a treed hilltop overlooking San Lorenzo Bay in the Ericeira world surfing reserve, reports Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photographs by Fernando Guerra.
JOSE Gregório has been Portugal’s national surf champion three times and specialises in tackling waves the height of multi-storey buildings. But for his own home he chose a simple design on one level with the main living rooms radiating from a central courtyard that exudes a meditative calm.
Lucidly modern, the new building is an homage to Corbusian ideals of proportion and crisp, unadorned lines. The house invisibly incorporates the architect’s award-winning expertise in sustainable design. “Our mutual interest in sustainability didn’t keep us from wholeheartedly embracing modern design,” explains Jorge Graca Costa. Both the architect and surfer wanted to include green design features into the fabric of the house as an integral part of the architecture.
The architect's aim was to protect the house form the region's strong northerly winds in summer and blustery southern winds blowing in from the sea in the winter. The U-shaped design was inspired by traditional Mediterranean courtyard houses where a central outdoor space is embraced and protected by the three surrounding wings.
The architect has extended this space out on to a lawn and deck with a non-chlorinated pool heated by a mix of solar and biomass energy. Keeping to his ecological philosophy, the architect has given the house a strongly-delineated modernist presence in the landscape but kept the the size to a modest 300 square metres.
Glinting, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea are recessed deep into the building and fitted with double-glazing to let in light while minimising the heat from the sun. Other sustainable features of the design include more passive heating and cooling techniques, rainwater collection for irrigation, cork insulation and solar panel and biomass methods for water heating.
Called the U-House, inside the rooms are light and airy with expansive views across to the sea and sliding doors that open out on to the outdoor living room created by the protected courtyard. The surfer and the architect have created a minimalist aesthetic for the interiors that frames the expansive bay views and used recycled materials throughout including specially-commissioned art-work.
All of the rooms in the U-shaped house have far-reaching views across the coast and sea.
At night the pool is lit from below and the surrounding decks provide a protected spot to look out across the lights sparkling along San Lorenzo Bay.
The deeply recessed decks offer shade in the summer and protect the interior from the direct heat of the sun.
One of the dramatic Modernist elevations with floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
Portuguese surfer Jose Gregorio walks out on to one of the decks surrounding his new house.
The house's main living areas are on to the first floor with the service areas on the ground level.
The light and clean-lined interior has wooden floors throughout, floor-to-ceiling glass doors and bright white walls.
An open fireplace creates a dividing wall between the living room and the kitchen and dining room.
Although the architect has created a contemporary house, he based the design on the traditional U-shape of local houses with a protected central courtyard.