In the Norte Region of Portugal, located within the metropolitan region of Porto, lies the town of Arouca: An abundantly fertile valley almost entirely enclosed in mountainous plateaus with astounding geological richness and biological diversity. Hidden in this lavish terrain, overlooking a little river is the Rustic Complex House. The owners paint a picture of what to expect: “Imagine falling asleep to the sound of a rushing river and waking up with the chirping of birds and sights of an opulent green landscape.”
The two bedroom house, available for short-term rentals, was designed by Mário Sousa and Marta Brandão, founders of MIMA Housing, a multidisciplinary design office whose practice is rooted in deep investigation and reflection on housing schemes and prefab construction methods. The firm focuses on converting architectural concepts into reality through simple and accessible products (including its own construction system).
The unassuming presence of an existing granary house further establishes the location's irresistible charm. Inspired by the masterful work of renowned architect Peter Zumthor, Sousa and Brandão recognized this site and building as an opportunity to do something architecturally special: To create visual poetry through a fundamentally simple and cohesive design. The key was developing an architectural language that spoke with the existing building and landscape that would remain meticulously consistent throughout.
The slate roof became the beating heart of the project, with cues taken from vernacular architecture. The dark, sensuously textured aged slate was extracted from local ruins and has unique proportions synonymous with the local granaries.
Slender-slatted dark wood clads the house and is compelling twofold: From the exterior, its verticality accentuates the beautiful proportions of the roof and house, and from the interior, it becomes a delicate moveable screen that provides a playful dynamism with the light that filters through.
Inside, the beige of textured micro cement paired with natural wood features creates an abundant warmth. Black metal details are present throughout, adding a crisp touch of sophistication. A sculpture-like staircase is a prominent detail on all levels. On the upper floor, the sloping underside of the roof reveals itself—its structure and proportions speaking in grandeur despite the humble scale of the house.
A narrow balcony reminiscent of an engawa—a boarded floor along the outside of traditional Japanese homes—runs throughout, creating an ambiguous buffer zone between architecture and nature. The balcony culminates in an outdoor space with a pool overlooking the terrace below. Thoughtful, intentional window placements frame the sumptuous terrain beyond, and all interior finishes, furniture, and objects are curated to ensure coherence with its underlying architectural language.
In a culture of starchitects and an insatiable appetite for complexity and volume in architectural pursuits, the Arouca Rustic Complex provides a rare escape. Its simple, humble architecture facilitates a connection between people, nature, and architecture. To secure your stay at the property, contact by phone or email through their website.