THE POSTAL UNIONFOR THE MEDITERRANEAN
Houses in the Mediterranean
Country: Portugal
Year: 2018
Release Date: 09 Jul 2018
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Press Release

HOUSES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN


Houses of the Alentejo

 

The lands of the Alentejo, a region of hills, dry plains and little in the way of relief rainfall, are abundant in natural resources. Évora is largely formed of granite. In Portalegre, Elvas, Arronches and Assumar we find schist and in Beja, clay. In the municipalities of Estremoz, Borba and Vila Viçosa there is limestone, marble and plentiful water. The buildings blend into the landscape as if they were part of it,

making use of materials and solutions adapted to the climate and forming naturally balanced groups. We can identify two types of architecture: the erudite, visible in the manor houses of great estates and in the noble houses in urban centres; and the popular, which can be seen in the oldest row of houses in the towns and villages, and which are an integral part of the traditional heritage. The rural house, composed of a single storey, is regarded as the most typical and best known in the culture of the Alentejo. Its plan is simple and rectangular, its thick walls are whitewashed, with few openings (usually just a door and a window) and featuring painted bands across the base, predominantly ochre and blue. Traditionally built in taipa (rammed earth), a wise choice that allows heat to be conserved in the winter and maintains freshness in the summer. An enormous, eyecatching chimney, of Arabic influence, is a favoured spot inside the kitchen and provides an exit route for the smoke from the hearth that warms the cold nights and cures the homemade smoked sausages.

 

Houses of the Algarve

 

The Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, at the far south-western corner of Europe, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean but enjoying a temperate climate thanks to the strong Mediterranean influence, has three distinct geographic zones: Litoral, Barrocal and Serra. This geomorphological diversity gives it an individuality and originality that are also reflected in the traditional architecture, both in terms of materials and techniques, and in the forms of the different types of dwelling that, in turn, incorporate the cultural influences contributed by the region’s history. The houses of the Algarve display a variety of roofing, with a mix of skillion or dual-pitched plus terrace roofs, as is common in Barrocal, just terrace roofs, like the well-known houses of the old town centre of Olhão, or hipped roofs, known locally as tesoura (scissor) roofs, examples of which can be seen in Tavira. They are notable for their particular taste for decorative details. The iconic ornate chimneys, the colourful platbands with geometric designs, the whitewash, the bright colours framing doors and windows, the balconies, the polychrome scagliola and the latticed doors are just some of the marks of the Algarvians’ characteristic decorative sense that await the gaze of the curious visitor.