Piers Taylor and Caroline Quentin travel to Portugal, where they discover four extraordinary homes built with great design and craftsmanship.
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I think it's time, Caroline, to go and see how the other half live.
Talk about welcome to my humble abode.
Cor! That is a whole lot of house.
He's Piers Taylor, an award-winning architect.
I mean, the depth of this wall, it's four foot thick.
After you, my lord.
And she's Caroline Quentin -
acclaimed actress and passionate property developer.
This house has the perfect ratio of bedrooms to swimming pools.
We've been given the keys to some of the most incredible houses in the world.
If we were left alone here for any amount of time,
-I have a feeling...
-We would ruin this house.
To discover the design innovation,
passion and endurance needed to transform architectural vision into an extraordinary home.
It's so glamorous, Piers.
We're travelling the globe.
Meeting architects and owners to explore how their daring homes respond
uniquely to local landscape, climate and culture.
I think this is probably the greatest house I've ever been in.
Whether it's battling the elements to construct a dream home on dramatic
The architect was nervous that things would go wrong.
They couldn't bear to look at it.
Pushing the boundaries of European experimentation...
-I think that's it.
-I think it is.
When I looked at the proposal, at the beginning, I was almost shocked.
Celebrating craftsmanship and beauty in Asia...
They take away the extraneous, and they leave you with what is beautiful.
Or going all out for glamour in America.
You just do what you do best, is to create a masterpiece.
-Piers! Is this too Miami?
We're in Portugal on the southwestern edge of Europe,
a country of stunning landscapes, and a wild, rugged, Atlantic coastline.
Have you been to Portugal before?
-I've never been to Portugal before.
I'm fascinated to discover more about Portugal.
I've heard that there is real design ambition here and an exhibitionism
below the surface.
They're beautiful little settlements.
I mean, I love the modesty of them all, you know?
-Nothing has been designed to be looked AT, has it?
We're hitting the road to find Portugal's hidden architectural treasures.
Risking life and limb...
..exploring some of Portugal's most exciting homes.
It works for a space, and it leads you to what must be the main event,
this extraordinary view.
-Where architects have been let loose...
One, two, three... BOTH: Go! First one to touch the end!
-..to create phenomenal properties that respond sympathetically to their setting.
This is, without doubt,
one of the biggest privileges of my life, to be in a house like this.
We're starting in a beautiful and windswept region west of Lisbon known as
the Portuguese Riviera.
And tucked away somewhere in this exclusive seaside neighbourhood
is a discreet and beautiful modern home.
Have you got the address there?
Yeah, I think it says it's on the left somewhere.
-It says we're here.
That's not at all what I expected.
Er, it's not that one, Caroline, I think it's this one.
Oh, yeah. That makes sense.
VOICEOVER: I like that, from the street, this house gives little away.
But, beyond the drawbridge, there is a complex and sophisticated three-dimensional puzzle.
First, we need to work out how to get in.
Have you got the key?
Oh, here it is, sorry, sorry.
OK, oh, OK. So, it's really... Hang on. Erm...
That's very chic, isn't it?
A moving hedge.
-What are you doing?!
-I'm sorry, I pressed the wrong button.
-I don't know what, I don't know!
-I could have been squashed like a bug in there!
-Everything's opening now.
Oh! I didn't know I'd done that!
I think if you're going to press a button now, and this is going to come out like a drawbridge, isn't
-it, and throw me off the top.
Caroline Quentin in charge of a remote control - that is not a good thing.
It's very tactile.
And very grand.
This stunning family villa is a masterclass in understated beauty.
Light and shade dance bewitchingly through the minimalist, stylish interior.
The architects have created a kind of 21st-century castle with walls of
concrete, glass and timber which all move at the touch of a button.
The moving walls mean that this is a house that works with the landscape
as well as the highly changeable weather.
It's eight foot wide and eight foot high and I can operate it with a single finger.
Of course, a house like this wouldn't have a front door with a
conventional, you know, latch, etc.
And at first glance, it's difficult to tell what's inside and what's outside.
There's a garden inside this house.
And there is also...
the most marvellous car downstairs, that I'm going to have to show you.
-Can I go now? Can I have a look?
-No, not immediately.
Gosh, this is good.
It's a breathtaking room.
I've just seen a golf buggy go past. That's hilarious!
It's got the most amazing view in the world and then there's
a load of people with sun visors on, zooming past!
Because Portugal is one of the golf capitals of the world.
Why would you build what is clearly one of the most beautiful houses in
the world on the seventh tee or whatever?
Because I guess they're incredibly keen golfers.
That whole wall opens up, I think,
which means that you can swing your bat, you could kick off from here, couldn't you?
-You could... Kick off? Bless you.
-What do you do?
I think they tee off.
And again, look, there, you could just open this up.
And then you've got a swimming pool IN your sitting room.
But this house has many other interesting surprises.
This is the room, isn't it?
So, that's the second swimming pool.
That's the second swimming pool on the roof.
The courtyard is designed to keep out the strong winds that come in from the Atlantic,
but it's also where the combination of light and water is used in a very architectural way.
It's a two-pool house.
That's my dream house, a two-pool house.
Actually, a single-pool house is my dream house,
so a two-pool house is just...
It's unimaginably marvellous.
It's so glamorous, Piers, isn't it?
It's lovely, but it also is a very sensible way of making a space in a hot climate
because, in summer, you can cross-vent all of this and use it,
you're in the shade, but, in winter, you can use this to have lunch, to hang around. It's great!
Inside Wall House's heavy exterior shell is a family home.
Above a basement with guest bedrooms and garage and a recreation room
are the main living spaces.
An open-plan kitchen and sitting room are arranged around
the enclosed courtyard and pool.
Above are three family bedrooms,
bathrooms and a series of balconies all overlooking a transparent swimming pool.
This creates a canopy for the courtyard below,
providing a beautiful quality of light.
And the light from the pool is beautiful coming through, or the shade, I guess.
Dappled over your dining area.
It's a really usable, contained courtyard in the middle of a house,
and this house has lots of glamour, lots of style.
And this pine is beautiful. This is really good quality.
It's very wide, very beautiful timber,
That's carefully selected. I mean, there's no knots, you know, it's lovely stuff.
And, actually, as a palette of materials here, you know, blue sky, grey concrete,
blue pool, grey timber, it's a really good palette, isn't it?
I love it. I absolutely love it.
It looks like you can open these up,
and when it's a hot day just really take advantage of that wonderful breeze.
Why don't you press that button, Caroline?
-Just on the wall there.
The landscape is welcomed into the house through an enormous expanse of
glass that makes up the entire side elevation of the house.
It's operated using a simple counterweight system.
And there you are, we're out there with all those people in slacks and jumpers.
That'll be us in a couple of years.
This is a fully automated house,
and major walls can move and disappear depending on the prevailing weather conditions.
Most houses have doors and windows that open, but this house has walls that move,
big pieces of wall that move in different configurations,
and they're made of timber, concrete, glass,
and all of those things together provide a range of different spaces.
It's really unusual, actually.
Here, what's lovely is that a wall is a device that, I guess,
-is like a castle would have used a wall historically as the device...
-It's a fortress, isn't it?
Yeah, to enclose a space. It is a fortress that has a number of different
ways that that wall can open and move and slide around.
If it were a fortress,
this house wouldn't be a bad place to be under siege,
with a state-of-the-art kitchen, a games and cinema room.
Should the enemy breach the ramparts, this being Portugal,
I could fortify myself for battle with some very quaffable vintage port.
This is an enormous house.
The second pool, the upstairs pool,
which is absolutely stunningly beautiful...
..and, oh, I appear to be in the bathroom.
Oh, I am in the bathroom.
Can't be a bathroom without a door.
Tiny, little door.
DOOR SHUTS GENTLY
And, if you want to,
you can watch the golfers from the third swimming pool.
Master bedroom, I fancy.
Lovely place to sit outside the bedroom.
Look down on both pools.
If I must.
# Summer breeze makes me feel fine... #
And what could be better after a rest than a bracing swim in mid-air?
What are you doing, Taylor?
This house is called Wall House for good reason.
The wall defines the buildable limits of the plot.
So, outside of the wall sits, you know,
the sort of unguarded landscape.
That is the landscape, and whistling in comes
that cold, Atlantic wind,
and the wall contains and stops that wind from entering.
So, within the wall, the question is how do you get in?
And there is a bridge.
I mean, it's like an ancient drawbridge
that brings you up to the front door and into the house.
With this contained space,
what there is then is a very simple L-shaped building.
That L-shaped building is then dropped into the courtyard.
And it's that comes down, sits in this position, facing south...
..gathering the winter sun, then, last, and perhaps most importantly,
if you're Caroline Quentin,
that courtyard contains this swimming pool.
This house is interesting in how it manages to make a virtue out of its
exposed position near the Atlantic...
..by containing a set of protected spaces,
where light and water are used poetically.
I'm meeting the architects who designed this house, Marco and Jose.
Tell me what you think the essential component of the design is.
THEY TALK OVER EACH OTHER
We did the house for the weather and today it's a very good...
It's a very good day.
And the way the light works is very beautiful.
It's particularly unusual here, though,
because it's constantly moving because of the pool on the roof.
And that was presumably a big design decision early on to place the pool
-on the roof...
-On the first floor.
Because we want to create a cover
to the eating exterior area.
But we don't want to lose the light.
So we thought to create liquid...
Some liquid element that let light inside the patio.
The pool has huge pieces of glass.
How was that engineered and built?
-The bottom of...
-It's not glass.
-It's not glass?
-It's acrylic, it's acrylic.
Creating a transparent pool was a big challenge.
Four huge acrylic panels, 13 centimetres thick,
in steel frames weighing eight tonnes each,
had to be craned over the top of the house.
Once carefully lowered into position,
they were sealed with special silicon to make them watertight.
The pool contains 55 tonnes of water.
Yet, because it's unsupported on two sides, it looks weightless.
This effect is created by a counterweight in the ground and hefty
steelwork in the supporting wall.
This is a building where you see every single bit of construction.
-You've got nowhere to hide if anything goes wrong.
We use the structure like a finished house.
We don't cover the structure.
It's part of the architecture in disguise.
This has no finishes in the conventional sense.
-Yes. And very difficult to do it, because the people, they say,
"Ah, this is not finished, so, it's easy to do."
-It's very hard.
-Not easy at all!
Do you think these guys over here are going to wonder when you're going to
render it and paint it pink and put the cornice on top?
-No, they are different languages.
This is a house that's very beautifully made,
it's put together with real craft.
This is the guarantee of the quality of the architecture.
Sometimes, doing this,
it's easy to take for granted that you see some of the most brilliant places.
..is without doubt one of the biggest privileges of my life, to be in a house like this.
Everywhere you turn there's something beautiful,
something fun, something interesting, something challenging.
It's a real treat.
-What are you up to?
-I'm really struck by this house as a sort of mini citadel, in some ways.
It has a bounding fortress-like wall that keeps the outside out.
And the wall is the device that deals with keeping the city,
the neighbours, the weather at bay.
It deals with views.
Views in, views out, all of that sort of stuff.
Deals with arrival across that drawbridge.
In a way, it is another world in here.
It's interesting, the house, isn't it,
because everywhere you look when you first arrive is closed off.
But now that we've started to open up
all the sides of the house, the walls of the house,
it becomes an entirely different living space.
POOL WATER RIPPLES
My idea of heaven is to have a pool...
..directly off the bedroom.
I think if you're going to build a luxury house, and this is,
let's face it, a luxury house, then, for me, that's what it's all about.
But even us mere mortals, you know,
who live in ordinary, domestic places,
flats and bed sitting rooms and suburban houses,
we can glean something from this.
We can. I mean, this is a really lavish house, a really expensive,
lavish house, but the best thing about it is free.
It's daylight. It's beautiful light that comes flooding in everywhere.
And we can all use that.
Shh, don't say anything.
Every country has its archetype in terms of houses.
In England, it's the country cottage.
In Australia, it's a veranda house.
In the American Midwest, it's the prairie house.
And in Portugal, it's the courtyard house.
And this is very much an archetypal Portuguese house.
Here's that car I told you about.
How many horsepower has it got?
Half a horsepower.
-As much as that?
-Actually, your visor matches my jacket.
Oh, you can really rock a visor, Piers.
-Shall we have that round of golf, then?
But there's only so far you can get in a golf buggy.
And we have to travel hundreds of kilometres to our next destination.
We're going into the medieval heart of Portugal.
Penela is a hilly farming region known for its vineyards,
olive groves and hilltop towns, with roads designed for horse and cart.
This absurdly large car.
-I don't think we're going to get through there.
-No, I don't think we...
CAROLINE HUMS NERVOUSLY
Piers, how are you going to get out of here?
I'm actually a really good driver. Trust me.
Yeah, yeah, ooh! Slow down, slow down.
-OK, now I'm going back.
I think... Stop!
Stop! Stop! Stop, Piers!
SENSOR BEEPS RAPIDLY
Mind her frog.
I'm going back, I'm going back, I'm going back.
She said go up that way.
-No, I can, I can do it.
-He's an architect, he won't listen to me.
All right, OK, good this side.
-Good this side.
-Look at that.
This town's not big enough for us, Piers.
You've done it, you've cracked it.
-There we are.
-What's wrong with that?
-Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Maybe we'll get into less trouble on foot.
That's a lovely view.
Isn't that gorgeous?
Too perfect to be real.
It is. Every bit of this land has been terraced for probably 2,000 years,
-Makes it very, very beautiful to look at, doesn't it?
Cos it carries your eye all over the place.
And very difficult to place a building because, actually, how do you not destroy those terraces?
Built as a second home for a British couple seeking a change of pace,
our next house delivers exactly what they were looking for.
Fresh air, magnificent views and plenty of space.
This dramatic holiday home, set in a former olive grove,
is hidden behind a simple, rustic entrance.
Look at the depth of it. Seriously, look.
This is... I mean, you could lose me in here.
CAROLINE LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY
Do you know, by rushing into the house like that,
you've rather missed this beautiful entrance.
This reveal. I mean, this is beautiful.
This is a tiny, three-mil thick bit of steel which frames this entrance and,
in a way, stops you seeing into this dry-stone wall.
Which is beautiful. I mean, this wall is lovely.
-I mean, it's really lovely. Tactile.
-I love the juxtaposition of this steel,
the smoothness with the roughness of this beautiful hewn rock.
-Clever, isn't it?
And very beautiful.
Shall we go and try make an elegant entrance this time?
-Yeah, you'd better have a go this time.
-I'll just stand here and fall about.
Beyond the traditional facade,
Casa na Gateira dramatically reveals itself.
# Suddenly I see
# This is what I wanna be
# Suddenly I see
# Why the hell it means so much... #
This house is so embedded in the landscape that you can only really
understand its unconventional snakelike shape from the air.
Time now to see how it works inside.
This is presumably the same levels,
the same shape that the landscape had before there was a house here.
You know, if you followed this outside, this terrace would continue through.
-In exactly the same way that the olive trees are growing...
..just the olive trees would be here, only we're here instead of the olive trees.
You're literally following the profile of the land all the time.
I mean, you know, you would never design a kitchen with a step in the middle of it,
but, actually, that probably was the level of the ground.
They've decided to keep that terrace visible, which is beautiful.
And it works, for a space.
-It really does work.
-And it leads you to what must be the main event, this extraordinary view.
The challenge for the architect was to build a house that stepped down
the hill with the existing terraces.
This has resulted in its unusual form.
At the highest point is a garage, a small gym, and a guest bedroom.
A staircase leads down to the other levels, with an open kitchen,
living room and dining space.
Beyond is the main bedroom and another one for guests.
By separating each part of the house,
all of the rooms are given access and views to the outdoors.
Appropriately, in a region known for its wine,
the architects have used cork on some of the walls.
A local material with a complex texture and soft to the touch,
it looks great.
The use of cork in this house is absolutely right, because cork has been
harvested in Portugal for over 300 years and it's done manually, because
they haven't found a mechanical way of doing it.
So, people have been slicing the bark off these trees and using it in their
homes for such a long time.
It's wonderful to see it used here,
not just decoratively but also acoustically.
Because in these predominantly concrete houses,
and we've seen a lot of them, acoustics can be a real problem.
And this just deadens that bouncing sound.
Works really well.
This is clever.
You can come through your wardrobe, your dressing room,
open this little secret door,
sneak out there and have a cup of coffee in the early morning shade.
And then the bedroom, very, very simple.
Just pure white design.
And a bathroom that makes the most of the view.
And, out here...
..another lovely outside space.
The sunshine first thing in the morning.
This is where I'd sit.
The hierarchy of spaces in this house are really well considered,
I mean, the kitchen is the command centre,
right in the middle of the house, looking at everything,
looking at the view, of course, but looking at every corner of the house.
And I sense this is where the action is.
And of course, then, in front of that is this main living room,
organised along the terrace at the view.
Houses like this that are very open plan do need more living spaces that
you can shut off, if you really do want an intimate, private moment.
Excuse me, I'm trying to have an intimate, private moment.
I think I might make myself scarce.
The geometry of this house is complex
and difficult to understand at first glance.
But if you draw the landscape, the house makes total sense.
And, in many ways, you wonder how it could be any other way.
If you draw the diagram of how you move from one terrace to the next,
what you end up with is...
..a set of spaces that just encapsulate the route
you would have taken down, across the terrace.
Even the pool here is another terrace.
And what you have is the integrity...
..of all of these terraces...
..retained. And that's pretty rare.
Usually the shape of the ancient landscape,
when you put a new building in it, is demolished.
That's absolutely the opposite to this building,
and that's why I love this house.
This rural retreat was built for British couple Neil and Shirley.
And they used an appropriately 21st-century method to build a very modern home.
It's kind of an internet house in that we found the plot online,
we found the architect online, and we designed it with them,
and the four of us came up with this design,
which they nicknamed The Snake, because the house does snake down the landscape.
Why did you decide on Portugal?
Research online showed that there was land available here that was affordable.
There were good architectural practices.
We didn't want golf courses and beaches.
-We wanted vineyards, hills, mountains, countryside.
And that's really why we ended up here.
When you saw The Snake, I mean, it's kind of...
It's a much more interesting building that some people might have wanted, I think.
Yeah, I mean, it's all about form following function.
One of the reasons for the shape is the two guest bedrooms have got their
own little corridors, so, during the day,
we can be together all we like but, in the evening, people get peace and quiet.
So, that's partly how we've ended up with this, kind of, three-headed snake.
Why did you want to build a contemporary house?
Just an opportunity to build a living space
from square one.
This is probably the only opportunity we'll have in our lifetime to
create something that's just completely designed for how we want to live in it.
That's a great opportunity to have and we think we've made the most of it.
But are you enjoying life here in Portugal?
Oh, yeah, I like it here.
I mean, I just find it so relaxing.
Just looking at that view, I just love it.
The architects Vasco and Patricia
have come to talk to me about their approach,
and how they designed the house.
Your clients were two British people that had never really spent any time
here. How was that as a process for you?
They specifically chose this place because they were not familiar with it.
And they want to have this balance and come close to nature,
and they can have loads of space for each room.
What did they say when you showed them this?
I think they were surprised.
My feeling was that they didn't quite know what to think of it because it
was weird, it was not easy to perceive.
The shape seemed complicated.
I think that when we started describing the experience that we wanted them
to have of the site inside the house and throughout the house,
then they understood that it could be very simple on top of the landscape.
And building this house in a place where there are very few new houses,
certainly no new houses that look like this,
technically they level a site, and they put something in it,
they build a big fence around it, how was that?
When we arrived here, it was all here.
I mean, the vineyards were beautiful to look at,
and the scent of the olive trees of the neighbour,
the sounds of the nature nearby, everything is here.
And if you do as little as possible,
I think you have more a feeling of being part of this.
CAROLINE: Casa na Gateira is clearly the result of successful and happy
collaboration between architects and clients.
I feel that we've been in Portugal for four days.
We don't really understand what it is, as a...
..as a culture within its own right.
It's tricky, Piers, because it's difficult to reduce Portugal down to one
And, for us, in a way, it's what Portugal isn't that makes it nice.
-What do you mean?
-It's not Spain.
-It's not Spain. And it's not France.
-I've never been a Francophile.
-What's the best thing about Portugal?
Low key. It's not brash.
It's very at ease with itself, isn't it?
It's at ease with itself, yeah.
Neil and Shirley clearly enjoy all the simple pleasures that Portugal
has to offer.
And I really appreciate how they've worked with the architects to make a
house that isn't ostentatious and responds to this ancient landscape.
Time to leave the olive groves inland and head for the coast.
Portugal has 850km of rugged, Atlantic coastline,
so the architects here find themselves facing the dual challenges of
tricky terrain and extreme weather.
We're visiting a house that has dealt with these challenges in an original way.
It's a tiny country, Portugal.
But, in a way, you feel this could go on for ever,
like being in the Australian outback or something.
And here, the soil seems to be so sandy and dry.
I think this piece of land here gets very windy.
I mean, it's very exposed to the Atlantic, this isn't Mediterranean country.
This is Atlantic country.
Is it hard to build houses in this sort of landscape?
If you sort your foundations out, you're fine.
A lot of your money will be in the ground here.
Making sure it doesn't just gradually sink into...
-..into the sand.
-I like that in a house, don't you,
that it doesn't gradually sink?
I think that's important in a build.
It's here. Unprepossessing gate, quite like that.
Scrubland, isn't it? They've built in pine scrub.
It's quite nice, though.
Oh, I can see it. I can see it.
This house has been built on a huge 61-acre site for a
free-spirited financier and his family.
I'm interested that it doesn't give much away, does it?
Really is nestled, isn't it, into the dunes.
Casa Monte, or Dune House, as it's affectionately known,
has two artificial sand dunes that buttress the sides of the building
and lead up onto the roof.
You do know what I'm going to have to do now, don't you?
-I dread to think.
-It's making me feel I have to walk on the roof.
-Steady on, girl.
I like the fact that the path becomes the house.
I like the ability to be able to...
..survey the surrounding area very quickly.
But it's also where we can understand what the house is and, actually,
the house is in a way quite simple.
It's an X, it's a cross, and there are two little internal courtyards.
It's lovely, isn't it? I mean,
you get a real sense of place because we are quite high now.
You can see into the forest.
When viewed from above,
the unusual shape of this building becomes apparent.
The illusion is of a modest house,
half hidden beneath man-made sand dunes that conceal its true size.
It's a fascinating building, a stylish, secret den,
nestling within a pine forest.
-This is the front.
-I've always liked what I call,
in an old-fashioned sort of 1930s way, a storm porch.
But, also, I love this really raw, crude concrete.
I mean, this is what they do around here.
In England, curiously, we use it for really important public buildings.
Here, this is the stuff you can make cottages out of.
It's crude, it's raw, it's cheap.
-Just like me.
-Just like you.
THEY CHUCKLE I saw that coming!
And we are outside again.
We are, we are not underground at all.
I thought it would be dark, I thought we were coming into an underground bunker,
but it's beautifully light, and you can have a view
wherever you look.
This is the lightest bit of the house, in the middle,
and I get now why the legs are pulled apart,
because you can see right out into landscape.
In plan, Dune House is a large, crooked cross shape,
buried beneath man-made sand dunes.
The first leg contains garaging and a guest apartment.
Two more truncated legs provide four family bedrooms and bathrooms,
each leading onto protected terraces.
An open-plan living and dining room that look into the garden and pool
are in the fourth leg, with the kitchen alongside.
It's an ingenious shape, which creates several intimate areas,
each one with a different relationship to the landscape beyond.
A big living space. This is the other leg.
It's a big space.
And this curved wall is unusual,
and I guess that's because this leg has then been pulled away from the
other limb to give you a big courtyard inside, and of course this roof,
this ceiling, slopes right the way down to about five foot.
I like the fact that you can use it in different ways,
because when it's cold and windy, you'd close off these windows,
you'd sort of go to the other end, the sort of lower ceiling end,
the more cottage-like end of the room, light a fire.
Person-sized space down there.
Exactly, short person size space down there.
And yet obviously when it's warm, open it up,
and you're just at the poolside all day.
But also in winter what's great is the sun will flood in, flood in,
hit this floor, that floor will absorb all that heat,
re-radiate it at night, so you can bask down the end there,
in the knowledge that you've gained all that heat for free, actually.
Free heat, I like that.
The architect has created a house that can cope with an extremely variable climate.
He's used shutters to reduce summer glare,
and orientated most of the windows south to increase solar gain in winter.
And he's topped it off with a cruciform roof.
X marks the spot.
What I hadn't appreciated when I was on the roof is that this whole roof
surface is a hyperbolic paraboloid, it's a flat plane that is twisted,
so it's a double curvature, it's always curving in two dimensions.
And of course you can do that with concrete.
Not only is this house a hyperbolic paraboloid,
but there's also loads of shiny concrete.
They've made everything out of it, they've made the bed, the bedside table.
It's very clever, that one material that binds this house together.
It's everywhere, even in here,
and I like it very much for use in a bathroom.
It's so easy to keep clean, stiff brush, damp cloth, job done.
And beyond the house, acres of ancient pine forest.
There are lots of things to enjoy about this house but the thing I love
best is its proximity to these pine trees.
Not only do they look beautiful, but,
oh, they smell wonderful, too.
Please, Caroline, put the tree down.
This house, organisationally, is pretty simple.
I mean, there's a building that to all intents and purposes could have
been organised as a rectangle, and there's a side that you drive up to,
and you arrive in the front door,
and then there's a side that faces south.
The key trick of this building is that the house has been pulled apart,
been massaged into an almost starfish-like shape.
But what you gain in doing that is a building that has landscape sitting
around it, and that landscape can thread right the way into the heart
of this house.
Critically, then, the whole house is only ever,
wherever it is, only one room deep, so every single room, wherever it is,
wherever it is in the building, has a view both ways.
And that is really special.
This unusual, light-filled home is definitely a one-off,
and owner Andre is going to give me the lowdown on its creation.
The thing I'm most interested in finding out is about how you first saw this land.
Do you know this land from before?
Well, we knew the region from before.
I love going to the beach,
and so we used to come a lot to this beach here nearby.
I mean, it feels to me like you've sort of said,
make somewhere easy to live.
We did say that and mostly, we wanted to be very, very simple.
You know, the materials are very basic, we don't have a lot of furniture,
we don't have paintings, because we really wanted very, very, very, very simple.
But the actual design, when he first showed you,
when Luis showed you the design, a bird's eye view of the house,
that's not simple.
How did you cope with that?
It was very unusual.
-I remember the first impression I got,
it looked like some letter from some unknown alphabet.
Yeah, yeah, no, it is like that, yeah.
But it made a lot of sense, to be honest,
and it was not very difficult to buy into the idea.
The idea came from Lisbon-based architect Luis Pereira Miguel.
He's passionate about building houses that respond to the natural environment.
As you start designing the house,
it was clear that we would have to do something that had to
take advantage of the sand, so, as you can see,
this is completely made out of sand.
It was very important to build the dunes to get this connection.
Of course, every element in architecture has a price,
so explaining to a client that he has to spend money on sand is quite
difficult, but he
agreed, and in the end I'm very happy with it.
This is a house that really is a piece of landscape, isn't it?
It's embedded in the ground.
It is completely, I think it's much influenced in land art,
more than architecture.
Luis used 120 tonnes of sand relocated from the site to create the dunes.
As sand is difficult to build on, the ground works alone took two months.
Perhaps the trickiest part was the roof,
as its complex geometry had to be set out in timber formwork,
before it could be cast in concrete.
And the internal courtyards, what are they about?
They are for cross ventilation,
but also for getting nice spaces outside of the house,
spaces where you can think, or you can meditate,
have your breakfast or read your book.
So now, a few years on, how do you feel coming back now,
and seeing this in this landscape?
I find the house still beautiful,
which is good, I think.
And another thing about this house is that you cannot really say that
this is a house from the '80s or from the '90s,
and I'm very happy to be here after those years to see that the house
still is impeccable.
It is a house built on a piece of land meant for building,
but it still feels very like nature is boss here.
-What do you love most about spending time here?
I love everything, you know, I love that this is a house that we enjoy
with friends. We enjoy the summer life here,
and it's a house where my children were born, and grew,
so it's got a lot of very emotional memories.
You know, we like being completely with no neighbours in sight.
That privacy is wonderful, and, yes, we love this landscape.
The house is a very discreet intervention in an unspoiled forest.
Andre, the owner, was saying to me that he loves this place,
because it's all about living a kind of wild and free life.
I think that's right, and it's rare to be in a house that's only ever four metres wide, wherever it is.
You're constantly, wherever you are in the house, pushed,
pushed right up against nature, and that's pretty good.
It's fantastic, and in this place,
that actually means being pushed right out into the most wonderful pine forest.
Our final destination is in Portugal's far north,
a place famous for its natural beauty.
It's a popular region for hikers and holiday-makers.
Due to the altitude in this region of Portugal,
the architects were asked to produce a property that would cope with cold
weather, and also take advantage of the beautiful woodland landscape.
I don't think we can be far away now.
Steep valley side, facing
north, I think.
-Is that it?
-Can you see it?
-I can see something...
-Here we are.
Casa Geres is hidden, built on a hillside.
The road leads to the rear, and in order to fully appreciate the house,
we need to walk all the way around it before we go in.
I really like the idea of not revealing anything at all as you arrive.
It's a good way to meet a house, isn't it, Piers?
I think we should just see what we can discover.
A natural stream running down a valley has been diverted and transformed
into a series of pools.
Look at this waterfall.
-Are you all right there?
No, I nearly was in the drink, then.
You know, the Victorians would have gone mad for this, it's a fernery, basically.
We're going mad for it, you're going mad for it.
I am! I really think it's extraordinarily beautiful,
and I love the way it's sort of just another part of your journey around
this house, and we've only just started.
The house is like a large cabin, perched on the mountainside.
The platform is made from concrete,
with a building above a much more lightweight combination of steel,
timber and glass, with framed views out into the woodland.
Our first real glimpse of the house and the scale of it is phenomenal.
It's really lovely the way the concrete embeds the house in the ground,
and then there's this very lightweight timber wrapping over the top.
It's a lovely way these two bits of building have come together.
It's really monolithic and I have to confess I have a
love of buildings that don't have small, domestic openings,
but have big planes of material.
Already, we've been here a few minutes, and there's so much going on.
-It's terribly powerful.
I mean, what a great entrance shaft, and there's no other word for it.
There's something really wonderful about the simplicity of it,
because you know by now there's going to be a real treat when you reach the bottom.
-After you, my lord.
The long, concrete steps are very theatrical, concealing the view
until it's revealed to you from inside.
The house is anchored into both the hillside behind it,
and the bedrock below.
At one end is a five-metre high bedroom area,
separated from the main house by a small courtyard, and, inside,
the bedrooms and bathrooms are accessed from a mezzanine,
which overlooks the double-height living space below.
Oh, what a great room. I mean, this is a huge space.
It's much bigger... I mean, I knew it was going to be quite a big room, but this is enormous, isn't it?
It reminds me of a saying my old tutor used to use,
which was every house should have a room where a child can get up to speed.
-What about an adult getting up to speed?
-I don't know, shall we give it a go?
-Yeah, go on.
-All right, you have to go, too.
I'll start here. All right.
One, two, three, go!
-First one to touch the end!
You have to do a tag, now!
This space is designed to work as both an intimate family room and a place
to entertain larger gatherings.
I do like the idea of having a room that you can do anything with,
so you could clear all this out and you could play tennis.
You really... It's not a classical building with a formal set of rooms and
antechambers, this is a big, flexible warehouse.
I like the idea of being able to move where your sitting room is.
Nothing is tethered.
It's all absolutely free.
What transforms this contemporary warehouse structure from cavernous
to cosy is a subtle colour palette of vintage furniture and a generous use of
I'm going to take the weight
off my slingbacks.
It's very calm in here, Piers.
The colour of the leaves outside,
the valley with the sun on it, sheepskin and...
I'm quite weary.
I might just have a little relax, sweetie.
Caroline's right, this does have a church-like quality, because,
of course, this is the main hall and the back of the vestry space is the
smaller spaces, subservience to the main event, which, in this case,
is a very rudimentary kitchen.
It's almost like the scullery that a manor house would have had,
but made in the 21st century, fashioned out of very,
very straightforward bits and pieces,
lit by a single shaft of light from above hitting all of this masonry.
And in here, the depth of this wall, it's four foot thick,
this wall, and it's taking me upstairs through what looks like an ancient stone staircase.
Upstairs is very different from a church.
This is industrial steel, this is bridge technology.
The whole of the top of this house is really one big truss that lifts up
that timber box above the concrete.
And what we have up here has a very different character from the room below.
The room below is big, grand and formal.
The room up here is much smaller.
there's Caroline Quentin fast asleep and this is a really good place where
you could bring out your 11-year-old boy and lob things at people below.
I'm giving you all my sweets.
The bedroom has a cabin-like quality.
This could be on a boat somewhere.
It's lined in timber from top to bottom.
Acoustically, it's very different.
It's really warm.
And these shutters are really rudimentary.
They're simple, big pieces of timber.
The top is held open just by a timber prop,
the bottom one is hung by a chain.
Again, this structure here,
this is just all the exposed bolt heads and this is really simple,
pretty unrefined steel, there's nothing fancy about it.
But the windows here are sophisticated.
Unsurprising, as the owner has a company that specialises in
manufacturing hi-tech frames and glass.
Jose, Caroline. Lovely to meet you.
Thank you so much for inviting us into this absolutely wonderful house.
What's it like living in this house with the family?
There is something very particular about the way the house is made and the way the
elements come together because the ground is sloping hillside and on that
sits this inverted L,
which is made of concrete and it's the material that grounds the house
to this hillside, and it cantilevers over the pool at the end and then
there's that tree with these fantastic autumn leaves.
And much like a tree that has a canopy held up on a trunk,
the house above that piece of ground is an almost treelike structure
because these little posts hold up a box truss
that sits above this
and the entire first floor then sits within that truss zone.
So what you have is a real sense of a landscape that kind of comes
through, wraps right the way around the house,
sort of framing the house when you see it in landscape.
And with those windows, what a frame.
Coming out into this courtyard space through this glass partition is
really fabulous because this is what Jose does for a living -
he works with architects using glass, which is his speciality.
Not only does that door slide open, really elegantly and beautiful,
but this one does, too, so opening up this whole riad space.
A courtyard area that you can use in the summer when it's hot and it keeps
you in the shade, or even in the autumn, like now,
you can use these spaces,
which are quite sheltered when the wind is blowing hard up the valley,
and it brings you in from the outside into this wonderful master bedroom.
And unlike the rooms in the other side of the house,
the other guest bedrooms,
which are upstairs and small and cosy and wooden,
this one has much more elegant proportions.
With a 5m ceiling,
a giraffe could get a good night's kip in here without getting a crick
in its neck.
So you're still connected, so you can still see through the building and all the glass and the wood
in there, but if you want to be away from your guests or your children or
something, it enables you to get away and have a little bit of privacy in
a really beautiful space.
This house is intimate and impressive, stylish and fun,
combining stunning architecture and great taste.
-Quite nippy now, isn't it?
I'm quite glad we can light the fire.
I do love the house.
It's a really elemental building in many ways,
in terms of how it connects us with nature,
all the materials and the noise and the textures of everything.
And the house itself, the wood and the concrete,
they really complement each other.
-Just like us.
Just like us.
For me, each Portuguese house we've seen has been really ambitious from
an architectural perspective.
While at the same time being sympathetic to its context.
Portugal has been astonishingly diverse in its culture, in its landscape,
in its people and in its buildings.
It is somehow, though,
a nation that sort of keeps itself to itself pretty much and the houses
have been like that, too,
but once we've scratched around and tried to find out,
I've really enjoyed the things that we've discovered.
And inside, there is a treasure trove.
They've been subtle, they've been inscrutable, they've been very beautiful.
Rather like Portugal itself.
You sound like you've had a good time.
I have, thank you.
We're sort of Glaswegian Portuguese!
Next time, we're in Switzerland, visiting majestic mountain homes...
I mean, it's like something out of a fairy tale.
..startling lakeside pads...
-Look at me!
-..and luxurious alpine villas,
as once again we go in search of the world's most extraordinary homes.
This is clearly what this entire house is about.
Presenters Piers Taylor and Caroline Quentin travel to Portugal to find another four extraordinary homes. They are keen to visit a country that has a reputation for great design and craftsmanship but also modesty.
Their first house is located in the Portuguese Riviera, an upmarket area west of Lisbon. From the road, Wall House gives little away, but crossing a contemporary drawbridge, Piers and Caroline discover a huge, breathtaking luxury home. Whole walls of glass and wood open up, blurring the lines between interior and exterior, and it has two swimming pools, one on ground level and the second one crossing it from above.
Casa Na Gateira, the second house, is owned by British expats Neil and Shirley. Built in Penela, the rural heart of Portugal, it looks like a farm building outside, but once through the front door, it reveals itself as a truly contemporary home. The architects decided not to interfere with the landscape, creating a brilliant 'snake' design that hugs the ground and steps down the terraces.
House number three is known as Dune House. It was built within a pine forest near the Atlantic coast. 120 tonnes of sand were excavated from the site to create two artificial sand dunes that partially submerge the house on two sides. The house is also an eccentric, crooked cross-shape.
Casa Geres is hidden in a mountainous and forested national park. Piers and Caroline walk down into the beautiful, landscaped gardens, and get their first view of a stunning house, anchored into the hillside and bedrock. Inside, enormous windows access the views, and Caroline finds a massive master bedroom with an outdoor hot tub. They finish their tour by a fire on the terrace as the sun drops over the dramatic landscape.