words William Wiles
images Fernando Guerra/FG+SG
This colourful house in the city of Torres Vedras, 50 km to the north of Lisbon, is incredibly eye-catching -– but we must tread carefully, as architect Pedro Gadanho is tired of commentary that barely looks beyond visual impact.
Images of the building have been propagating like crazy on the internet, or as Gadanho puts it, “Tumblring” all over the world – referencing the name of popular picture blog-host Tumblr. “I’m very interested in the question of reception,” says Gadanho, who combines architecture with writing and criticism. “The house has been displayed just by people looking and saying, ‘Ah, how striking, the colours, how striking.’ It’s really frustrating, because there is another level of conceptual depth to it.”
The colours serve Gadanho’s desire to create a minimalist interior for this refurbished townhouse. They highlight the interventions the architect has made in the space. Most dramatic is the new stairwell in teal, necessitated by the addition of an attic level, and the adjoining yellow shaft for a luggage elevator.
On the ground floor, the kitchen is red, as is a niche containing a window seat – an ingenious way of turning a small, inaccessible window into a comfortable space. A purple lavatory intrudes into the hallway. On the first floor the library is, again, teal. This fondness for red and teal is also evident in a Gadanho house in Porto, designed at the same time as this one but finished earlier (Icon 067).
“I was exploring the notion that instead of using colour to enhance a surface plan as Le Corbusier used to do, it would be objects that would be coloured,” Gadanho says. “If you look at the house, there is no wall that is painted in colour. It’s always specific moments, objects – almost sculptural objects – that get the colour.” This is the architect’s way of breaking away from the austere, all-white “minimalist-chic” that dominates design and returning to the more complex minimalism of artist Donald Judd, something with more of a “critical edge”.
Most arresting of all the sculptures are a giant red-and-white pill and a green hexagon – one is a lavatory and the other a closet. There are two of each -– a way of uniting the bedrooms of the client’s two teenage boys.