Angled glass walls frame close-up views of a mature tree at the center of the Chestnut House in Vale Flor, Portugal, designed by local architect João Mendes Ribeiro.
Clad in black painted wood and lined with plywood panels, the accommodation is designed by Ribeiro as an “elegant shelter” in the rural landscape.
Chestnut House is one of five projects shortlisted in the small building category of the Dezeen Awards 2022.
According to the architect, the idea of its design started “from the idea of the place”.
“The reference to the ‘genius loci’ sums up the starting point of the design: the place and the large century-old chestnut tree,” Ribeiro said.
“The main idea of the project was to shift the interest from the architectural object to the place and the site, so that the context is the starting point of the project.”
Inside the 25 square meter volume, a living area, kitchen, and sleeping area all occupy one room arranged around a freestanding central fireplace.
Along the eastern edge, the walls of this space have been sloped inwards to hug the existing chestnut tree, which now stands between the house and a wooden deck.
Floor-to-ceiling windows frame a view of the tree trunk in the living room, creating a close connection between the interior and the landscape that will change throughout the year.
“Geometry [of the home] is broken and stretched by the tree trunk and its branches, opening the building up to the tree canopy,” Ribeiro said.
“The house reveals the changing seasons and weather throughout the year,” added the architect. “It is the changing game of nature that determines the life of the inhabitant.”
At the south end of the Chestnut House, a wooden ladder leads to a small mezzanine with space for an additional bed, while to the north is a bathroom.
A butterfly-style sloping roof rises at each end of the house, where large windows illuminate the bathroom and provide the loft with sweeping views of the landscape.
Chestnut House was constructed using a timber frame, lined with oriented strand board (OSB) and cork board for thermal and acoustic insulation.
The interior walls, ceilings, and furniture are all finished with plywood panels which bring a “warm and welcoming” atmosphere inside, while minimal fittings help draw attention to the outdoors.
Many architects seek to minimize their impact on natural sites by incorporating existing trees into their designs. In Brazil, Luciano Basso created an elevated concrete house around a pine tree while in Australia, Alexander Symes designed an extension with a terrace perched in the canopy of a tree.
The photography is by José Campos.