Pedro Quintela


Sintra, Portugal





This house found its home in Sintra, Portugal, the first UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in Europe listed as a Cultural Landscape that “represents the combined works of nature and of man”. This concept is central in this intervention and it has been the architect’s calling since his first work. Expressing the ‘Spirit of the Place’ is the core believe that guides all his interventions. Through a holistic approach that perceives architecture as a natural evolutionary process, it’s intended here to create a consistent intervention from which arises a harmonious place. Only when the structure has assured respect for the place the architect believes the work to be authentic and express value, beauty and truth.  


Sintra is an enchanted forest, an authentic fairy tale full of hidden treasures to be unveiled by the visitor’s curiosity and imagination. Considered by many as a ‘Sacred Place’, it hosts a myriad of mystical architecture from the 8th Century to the present day including a castle, a convent and palaces. Many of these enigmatic buildings contain symbols related to Alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar and the Rosicrucians.

They all arose from an intimate dialogue between man and nature and are unique in the space but not in time. They are portals capable of transporting you to imaginary worlds beyond physical reality.


The setting for introspection is ideal. Sintra’s cultural landscape is iconic. Magnificent hills, remarkable parkland and exuberant vegetation makes Sintra a well-known mystical and spiritual route. Contemplation and soul-searching was a purposeful part of the design program. This house intends to be a place of introspection. Windows angles, channeled views, even seating plans invite the visitor to pause, and through nature, feel their own nature and perhaps reconcile with their Divine. By providing seclusion and awe, this house aims to become a spiritual host, to welcome visitors queries about human existence. Spirituality here is given the chance to become a daily routine or a lifestyle, as opposed to an imposed schedule somewhere else, outside home.


The architect believes houses should call to mind (and heart) 

the feeling of ‘home’. Houses where you feel at home are houses where function and delight are so clear you understand the space and it natural surroundings both rationally and emotionally. Understanding allows you to relax, to feel safe and ultimately to reconnect. The soul of the house and yours are dissolved into one; the walls became your skin; the windows your eyes and both the house and yourself breathe the same air, at the same pace.


The smaller the house, the more challenging the spaces. As marvellous as a human body, this house is a sum of details coordinated all together to create a specific function: life! 

To visually enhance it small and narrow interior, the social areas that radiate from the entrance in the centre of the house are combined with a high ceiling open space and flowing lines, just as the undulating waves of the sea, bringing a feeling of calmness and comfort. The private areas are located in each far side and so, there are no corridors in this house and all rooms have natural light and ventilation. Strategically placed windows and skylights ensure wide views towards the ocean, mountains and sky. The small space became a wide house.


Nature enters the house and the house goes out to the Nature. It interior/ exterior intimate relation results in a symbiotic sharing of two organisms that are harmoniously diluted into a single permeable entity that allows a common life with mutual benefits. 

The architect believes that the simplicity of the materials highlights the essence of his architecture, which he seeks genuine and not masked. The same materials are used inside and outside such as the wooden roof structure, the walls cladding finishing and the floor’s stroked cement. In order to integrate the colours of the house in it surrounding landscape, the tones of the local stone and the sand of the nearby beaches were the inspiration. In general nature is not about a colour but about tones of colours.


Only the essential is welcome to this house! Coming with open arms and willing to let the place reveal and awaken your senses can be a profound inner growth experience that might help you to return to your originality and primacy. It can be an opportunity, a challenge!

The organic shapes of the house are extensions of you with the surrounding landscape and it straight connection with the nature elements, earth, air, fire, and water, reminds you that you are the one who belongs to the planet and not the planet who belongs to you. A subtle architecture intervention that emerges naturally from the place reflects respect and gratitude to the planet you live in.


Perhaps the only constant aspect of nature is its inconstancy. In places with such a strong geografy as this, located between mountains and imposing cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the weather can change dramatically fast. The house was designed to be able to connect you intimately with nature from inside and outside at any climate circumstances.

The ‘still life’ paintings hanging from the walls are replaced by the surrounding living nature framed by the windows. It’s intended that all the views seen from this house, since the very first moment of waking up until the moment of going back to sleep, are inspiring and helpfull to maintain a positive and serene frequency.


As subtle as it might be, the movement is a constant energy of nature. The fire moves with the oxygen; the shadows, with the sun; the clouds and trees, with the wind; the leaves and flowers, with the breeze; the rain, streams and ocean are water in movement and you, even if you are still and just observing, you are breathing and your blood is moving too. This house is part of this ‘dancing of the universe’ and to experience it, is like doing a walking meditation through its surrounding forest, perplexed by beauty and surprises. The longer you watch it and listen to it, the more you open and remind you who you are. The nature wish your wish to collaborate with the nature orchestra. You want to see through the eye of nature. You want to join the dance that has no steps. Here, you want to became the dance.


Over the time, the seemingly inseparable relationship between the ‘Art of Construction’, (focused on having and doing) and the ‘Art of Architecture’, (focused on being and feeling), has been separate. Those pure and humble shelters respectfully built in harmony with the land by the intuition and knowledge of our ancestors, became today constructions with no soul focused in the greed of the modern man, whose main intentions are speed, quantity and economy. Consequently, the essence of creating architecture as a reconnecting art has resulted in a dehumanization process that has separated us from our true nature. It is important to start thinking again about houses as sacred places to live instead of building meaningless houses to survive.


The design was inspired by the surrounding landscape from the macro scale to the detail, by a pre-existing house and by an intimate understanding of the clients lifestyle and wishes. The roof relates to the shape of a leaf, the smooth mountains contours or the undulation of the ocean. It extended lengths creates spaces with different atmospheres and protects the house all around the year from the hot bright summer season to the cold rainy winter. The canopy columns are round and slanted such as the surrounding trees, shaped by the prevailing north wind through the years. Due to the rotating geometry of the columns, the canopy became a more spacious, protected and welcoming place.


The challenge for the architect was to infuse this intervention with the morphology of the place. The more connected with nature the house is, the closer you might be of your essence. This will reflect the balance of your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual aspects and therefore, your better health and well-being. The garden’s curved sustaining wall it’s an extension of the house that naturally follow the landscape levels and creates a soothing and embracIng place to sit around a leaf shape table. This wall witness a holistic design approach that has no beginning and neither an end but instead belongs to a whole. 


Several terms have already been given to the type of architecture that the architects creates but to date none has ever seemed to encompass it entirety. Perhaps because it is not an architectural style, but a lifestyle based on a holistic philosophy that encompasses so many other different arts, such as sculpture, landscape, design, lightning and even, the art of listening. The architects real clients are the sites themselves. It’s with them that he spends most of the time hearing them carefully. They speak softly to him telling him how they want to be rebuilt. The architect’s takes the role of a spokesman, thus assumes as core onus knowing how to create in unique places, what is may, or not, request. Its proposed here for the first time a new term for this type of Architecture: ‘Artitecture’.


This house invites you to experience the rhythm of nature. Here you wake up gently with the sunrise light weeping the walls, the cristal sound of the birds, the pure fresh air of the forest and you witness the miracle of each morning with the delightful views framed by the windows. Due to the location, orientation and shapes of the house, during the day you can enjoy an authentic dance of shadows as a sun watch that guides you through the different spaces. The night resumes its sacred aspect as a continuous meditation that invigorates our well-being. You are cuddled by the light of the moon, the sheet of the stars, the warmth of the fire, the sounds of the owls, crickets or frogs and even the common presence of the magical fireflies.


The Boat House it’s about a sharing divine process between what is given by mother nature to men and what men gives back through his magical capacity of feeling, interpreting and create, adding value to his life on this planet. This intervention sought to go further than building a home with the nostalgic memories of the past, going beyond standard rash assumptions like shape, form, function and any trends devotedly responding to specific questions, not resorting to previous solutions. The aim was to understand the place through its intangible qualities, its myths, its legends, its policies and design a house, not only in a mathematical dimension, but above all, in an existencial dimension to defy and engage us emotionally, intellectually and spiritually . 

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