I still remember, a few years ago, when the architects Tamara and Valerio Olgiati acquired (in Paris-Sete, with whom I collaborated over a decade) the beautiful Open chairs, designed by James Irvine, for a house they were building in Alentejo.
At the time I was curious with the project, knowing the Olgiati's work, however only recently I've get to know Villa Além through a book dedicated to the house, published by Name Books.
Now built, the Olgiati residence in Portugal is an exemplary architectural exercise, the result of years of thought, planning and execution of the project. Away from it all, in the middle of the typical Alentejo landscape, the exterior walls instead of hiding interior areas, it reserve mostly a garden full of southern Europe vegetation, in an almost lunar environment, dominated in the center by a long pool covered with marble. Despite the interior showing the aim of transforming Villa Além in a refuge, it is outside - either on the patio or in the rolling surrounding hills - that this house stands out, being a perfect complement to the landscape, a real tool for ‘landscape living’.
"To date, three main forms are known to me in terms of housing. The first, ‘urban living’, I understand as living in the dense fabric of an urban setting. Then, ‘suburban living’, which takes place in a typical one-family home with a small garden in suburbia, and finally, ‘country living’, where people live socially and infrastructurally connected at large rural intervals.
We excluded all three of these forms for our house. This was not what we were looking for. Our home is far away from the next town. It is disconnected in every respect. There is only the vast empty landscape around us. In Villa Além, a sense of loneliness and independence arises. It is a real retreat. I was looking for a term for this type of housing and have arrived at ‘landscape living’."