The Social Complex in Alcabideche is comprised of 52 houses and a support building spread over a well-planned 10,000 square meter site. Guedes Cruz Arquitectos write that “Portugal is not a Mediterranean country, but the fact that it has been conquered by people from the south, Romans and Arabs, has left us with a southern culture and life style, where there is a balance between privacy and life in society.”
The firm was hired by the Fundação Social do Quadro Bancário (Social Foundation for the Banking Sector) to create a new elderly community, and they chose to model it after Mediterranean typologies in which outdoor spaces serve as extensions of the home. This design technique helped to keep the housing units smaller, and it also enabled the buildings to have plentiful natural daylighting and ventilation through walls of glazing.
The Social Complex in Alcabideche is a checkerboard of glowing boxes at night and a myriad of calming white homes during the day. The architect describes an “environmental balance” inside the homes due in large part to a thermal cushion created between the roof structure and the habitable space in the home. The exposed concrete walls help to regulate temperature, while also creating an ordered functionality that promotes quality living within the units. Another wonderful sustainable feature is the reuse of groundwater as irrigation. This groundwater is refilled through rainwater.
Photography by Ricardo Oliveira Alves