Entrevista à volta do Chalé das Três Esquinas na The Tiles of India, na excelente companhia de Mario Botta e Winy Mass.

Into The Light

Architect Tiago do Vale in an interview with The Tiles of India explains the process of restoring the “Three Cusps Chalet”

Eyes so transparent that through them the soul is seen.
Theophile Gautier

The “Three Cusps Chalet” in Portugal, is a very peculiar building, with a soul of its own. It documents the region’s history and diasporas, beautifully combining typical 19th century Portuguese architecture and urban design with an unexpected alpine influence. Architect Tiago do Vale from Portugal, restored the building and brought it back to its former glory. We delve deeper into the process with an interview with architect Tiago do Vale

What were your first impressions about the “Three Cusps Chalet”

Even as we visited it for the first time it became quite apparent what this building was desperately asking for. On one hand, it had to be free from all the gratuitous add-ons that suffocated it and compromised the clarity and logic of its original spaces. And on the other hand (even if it is, in many ways, a symptom of the same malady) to allow light to permeate its spaces. Darkness ended up as the ultimate consequence of the systematic compartmentalization that the building was subjected to. We needed to maximize both transparency and light to allow it to breathe.

What design strategy or inspiration ideas did you decide upon?

We recovered not only the original materials but also the original uses of each space. And even when we introduced new materials such as the Estremoz marble, we did it with the criteria of it being right for the building’s nature and historic context. In this particular case, time wasn’t generous with the building. Sometimes an architect finds himself divided, trying to respond to the challenges of a requalification, seduced between the conceptual honesty of a strict, blind restoration and the conceptually dishonest freedom to lie a little bit about it, to make way for the project to go a bit further on any particular matter.

As always, the best compromise lay in between both extremes, informed by them both: a strict, blind restoration can produce a beautiful and interesting architectural object, but something has to give so that the building is able to respond to the requests of the contemporary way of living. The way we live has changed dramatically over the last 120 years and the structure had to be responsive to this.

When the passing of time is generous, it qualifies and values a building, adding to its original qualities and taking note of its path through time. It shows how the way we relate with our homes (the way we live them) steadily changes and evolves, which is enormously enriching and a marvelous architectural experience.

That is very interesting!

Yes, so we tried to commit the tender dishonesty of offering this building a happier story, with a more generous path than the one it actually suffered. We recovered and highlighted its very interesting original characteristics while introducing elements and ideas that could transport, step by step, this home from its foundation times to the present day, perfectly adjusted to the contemporary ways of modern, urban life.

How was the design process?

The original structure was conceived as an annex serving the small palace by its side and sitting at the heart of both the roman and medieval walls of Braga, this is a particularly sunny building with two fronts, one facing the street at West and another one facing a delightful, qualified block interior plaza at East, enjoying natural light all day long.

The interior recuperated the original spacial and functional distribution, wooden floors and ceiling structures and the original staircase, while introducing Portuguese Estremoz marble on the wet areas and ground-floor. The program asked for the cohabitation of a work studio and a home program.

There is an intelligent staircase geometry which efficiently filters the visual relations between both programs while still allowing for natural light to seep down from the upper levels.

The white color is methodically repeated on walls, ceilings, carpentry and marble. The façade was restored to its original glory, reinstating the original wooden window frames and preserving the delightfully decorated eave.