At the end of 2018, the architect Maria Fradinho designed her own office and house with a steel structure on a 940 m² plot on the outskirts of Ílhavo, Portugal. The land is also “at the door” of Vista Alegre. It is a place that is actually quite popular with many architects. This is mainly due to the fact that its name resembles the Vista Alegre porcelain factory due to its origin. This is one of the most important industries in the region. The factory inspired the house designer because the area is actually very popular. She looked for references in industrial architecture in order to realize a house with a steel structure as a unified body. For this reason, she coated it with metallic materials and built the interior independently of its outer shell.
Modern house with steel structure
The “Arch House” follows the continuity of the neighboring buildings, with the main facade ensuring that it is aligned with the overall appearance. However, it is stylized to allow the permeability of light and views in a symbolic play of association with the presence of the arch. This also marks the entrance to the site of Vista Alegre. This improvement creates the “crowning glory” of the facade and takes itself on as a child’s drawing.
The theatricality of the facade also gives the house with its steel construction the appropriate name, which does not, however, define it alone. The building steps back in relation to the city facade described and creates a semi-private space.
There is a front courtyard that allows for the main fully open facade of large glass windows. The terrace is the moment of the rupture of the external environment and prepares us for the new reality of the interior. It is a bridge that connects two seemingly interrelated but really different realities.
The entrance hall resembles a small wooden box in which the residents and guests can feel comfortable and welcome. Immediately afterwards we are amazed at the light and the high ceiling of the living room.
It was important for the architects to ensure this transition process from the public to the private area and to ensure adequate privacy inside the house due to the maximum desired level of brightness. Inspired by shipping containers, the volume with which the interior is developed creates an overall height in some areas that reflects the great industrial environment of a main ship.
Innovative room layout and design
The different ceiling heights expand the rooms, make them more comprehensive and offer a visual relationship between the different places in the house. This creates the feeling that a single room is occupied by smaller elements.
These are distributed accordingly through the building in a “sliding” motion along its length. This creates a rhythm that breaks the monotony of the building’s outer body in a lively way.
The rear facade is also lavishly fully glazed. This creates a relationship with the green backyard and also ensures a direct relationship with the outside area. All boxes have the option of referring to this facade with the same hierarchy as they will all be converted into one large window.
For structural reasons, the basement designed for the studio was not built. This decision forced a complete redesign. However, it ensured the minimal changes to the original project of the house.
The Arch House is therefore the combination of these three assumptions: the theatricality of the urban facade, the complexity of the purported use versus industrial inspiration and the limits of the conspiracy that together make this steel structure house a complex and unique architectural gem.