A winner in the 2016 American Architecture Prize, the Three Cusps Chalet by Portugal's Tiago do Vale Architects is an unusual building, combining typical 19th century Portuguese architecture and urban design with an unexpected alpine influence. Conceived as an annex serving the small palace by its side and siting at the heart of both the Roman and medieval walls of Braga, this sunny building features two fronts, one facing the street at West and another one facing a block interior plaza to the east, enjoying natural light all day long.
The goal of this design, following 120 years of unqualified interventions and over-compartmenting, was to clarify the building's spaces and functions, returning it to its original purpose while making it fit for today's way of living. The façade was restored to its original glory, reinstating the original wooden window frames and preserving the decorated eave.
Tiago do Vale says of the project: "At it most basic, our option was to reclaim the original intent and conditions of the building but with the (fundamental) subtlety of providing an added something beyond a blind restoration. Something that could return the building to a function, to a use (whereby people could inhabit it and live a life of genuine quality), to present day, to the street, to the city, and with enough flexibility to keep it going for an extra 120 years. This is a delicate matter, though, as function, use, people, streets, cities are all things that relentlessly, unforgivingly, keep changing the way they relate with their built surroundings."
Let's take a look at the minimalist interiors:
The interior recuperated the original spacial and functional distribution, wooden floors and ceiling structures and the original staircase, while introducing Portuguese Estremoz marble on the wet areas and ground-floor.
The stairs become narrower with each flight of steps, informing the changing nature of the spaces it connects.
The first floor was kept for the social aspects of the house. Refusing the usual tendency to compartmentalise the space, the staircase was allowed to define the perimeters of the kitchen and living room, creating an open floor plan with natural light all day long. Light enters from the kitchen in the morning, from the staircase's skylight and from the living room in the afternoon.
At the top of the last narrow flight of stairs is the bedroom with the roof structure preserved and painted white. On the other side of the staircase there's a dressing room which opens into a bathroom. What a beautiful, serene space to retire at the end of the evening.
Photo credit: João Morgado