words Anna BatesLisbon-based architecture studio Aires Mateus has completed a project in the historic town of Moura in Portugal.
The compact housing complex contains nine apartments and 30 small shops. It is situated in the centre of the town and houses local conveniences, replacing the "derelict ruins" that occupied the site for 20 years.
The complex follows the typology of other buildings in the 1000 year-old town. "When people walk through the town they see light at the end of courtyards and open doors and corridors," says project leader Jorge Silva. So Silva used the same principles: the shops are set behind a thin corridor that runs around the courtyard. This also helps to shade the stores and shoppers.
On top of the shops, the apartments are set back behind huge timber frames to keep the windows out of direct sunlight. The top of the frames are covered with a slab of marble mined locally; in fact, all of the materials are locally sourced, including the clay sun-baked tiles used for flooring.