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Architecture: How to contemporarily approach vernacular

There has been a surge of interest in renovating traditional ruins for their beauty and charm. With today’s needs, one should do it carefully, not to repeat vernacular answers and at the same time not to “disrespect” the existing structures.

The approach should be a balance between old and new, where the new should highlight and respect the pre-existence of what once was, and at the same times prepare the new owners for a contemporary way of living.


Filipe Paixao, founder of the Architect firm, Corpo Atelier, shares his experience, knowledge and intuitive approach of a recent ruin renovation to the Pure Portugal community. The company is featured on the Services Directory.

Filipe says:

“In the case of this project, because of the need to have a wood truss system to support the roof, we extended and worked with that wood system to organise the entire house. Four thick stone walls are the remaining elements of an ancient rural house. Like a box open to the sky, these walls enclose a volume that is no longer divided in two levels, but presents its real volumetric potential.

A traditional pitched roof is placed to cover the top of the building. Inside, the wood structure that supports it is expanded vertically, encompassing the house in all its dimension, both dividing and hierarchising the space. The habitable areas then occupy the ‘interspaces’ of this clearly defined geometry of wood pillars and beams. Private spaces that require enclosure and intimacy – such as bedrooms and bathrooms – take place in three independent areas embedded in the structure, hanging from the roof. The social areas occur on the ground floor, organized around the pillars, emphasizing a sense of functional and visual continuity.”

The project was a finalist to the PNAM award 15 (National Prize for Architecture in Wood), won an honourable mention for the Concreta Under 40 award (young architects) and will be featured in the next issue of the Arq.a magazine.

Thank you for sharing with us Filipe.

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