House 77 by José Cadilhe 10.08.11

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House 77 in Póvoa de Varzim, a coastal city in northern Portugal, has a facade of polished steel panels that can be closed to shut it off entirely from the street, or concertinaed back to engage with it. "This allows you to control the intimacy of the house," says 30-year-old architect José Cadilhe, who has just started as an MA student in the Architectural Association's Design Research Laboratory.

Cadilhe was influenced by Herzog & de Meuron's housing development on the Rue des Suisses in Paris with its 
system of folding corrugated aluminum grilles that can be shut to create a continuous screened surface. But 
Cadilhe was keen that his own building shouldn't just present an aggressive closed steel curtain to the street but display "quiet pride" in the city. House 77 is one block from the sea and neighbouring properties are glazed in colourful local tiles. Its narrow 3.4m facade is decorated with mysterious signs that give it the smart, branded look of a Louis Vuitton handbag.

"They are historic symbols profoundly related to the city," explains Cadilhe of this proto-writing system known as "siglas poveiras". "Illiterate fishermen used them to mark their belongings and they still appear on some boats as good luck charms for men going to sea – but they are largely forgotten by my generation." Póvoa de Varzim is Cadilhe's hometown and the facade includes his own family's "marcas", as well as that of his client, and passers-by have been known to stop and point out their own as they wonder if House 77 is a museum, church or domestic building.

Inside, the space is divided into a series of half floors to create a sense of "visual amplitude". The stairwell which punctures the interior is painted Yves Klein blue and there is a fluid relationship between the different levels and a gradual hierarchy from social to private spaces. On the outside, the house is defined by its striking shutters, but within, Cadilhe says, "it is a house almost without doors".

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Image

Fernando Guerra

 

Words

Christopher Turner

quotes story

Illiterate fishermen used them to mark their belongings and they still appear on some boats as good luck charms for men going to sea – but they are largely forgotten by my generation

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