Like a bunker, Casa na Terra, located beside Alqueva Lake, in Portugal’s Alentejo, near the border of Spain, seemingly blends into the earth.
Almost fully concealed, the six-room getaway, appropriately translating to ‘house in the land’ in English, is capped with a verdant roof and was intentionally hidden. “Our ambition was to make the house disappear,” says architect Manuel Aires Mateus, founder of his eponymous Lisbon practice, who also spearheaded the design of this fifth property to join the Silent Living portfolio of rentable homes.
In the works since 2007, Casa na Terra is located in an area where construction is technically forbidden. “We started with the idea of building a kind of ruin,” the architect points out. When the team returned to the site six years later, that is exactly what it resembled.
Inspired by the home of a Roman emperor, the house is built into the ground so that it is has minimal impact on the landscape, its concrete dome offering a sense of protection. “You feel the effort of the people that made it by hand,” adds Aires Mateus. “It’s not absolutely precise or mechanical.”
To cultivate an aura of seclusion in the interiors, too, concrete mixes with warm wood. Forging a connection with the outdoors, a large circular skylight reveals sunrise and sunset views while three bedrooms surround open-air atriums wrapped in white tiles that collect and reflect sunlight. “White has a completely different presence here,” says Aires Mateus. “We only used it in a negative sense,” so as to not detract from the serene setting.
It is through these means that the property sets out to find “a new balance between nature and artifice,” he adds. As the sun rises over the lake, a golden glow emanates from the dome for a few minutes each day, a serendipitous ritual that is “absolute magic.”
A version of this article was originally published by Hospitality Design.