While most architectural firms often work with demanding clients, Portuguese firm Studio 3a only had two very basic instructions when tasked with building a peaceful retreat for a client: the design must have a bed and a bathtub. Working within these simple parameters, the designers came up a gorgeous minimalist design that consisted of two jet-black timber cabins tucked into an idyllic spot surrounded by wild pine trees.
Peacefully tucked into a dense forest in the coastal village of Comporta, the natural surroundings as well as the local climate drove the design’s many passive features. The area is known for its intense summer heat, so the architects carefully positioned the cabins so that they would be illuminated by natural light but also protected from the harsh sunlight. Additionally, the cabins have large overhangs and a tensioned solar shading system that provide respite from the heat while residents are outside. The cabins are also installed with low-E windows to add efficiency to the project.
The project consists of three prefabricated cabins, two of which are connected by an open-air wooden deck. Fulfilling the client’s simple wish list, the first cabin, which is referred to as the “intimate module” is just 129 square feet and contains a bed and a bathroom. The second cabin, the “social module,” houses the main living space, complete with an open-plan living room and kitchen. The third cabin conceals the home’s utility services and a garage and is just steps away from a swimming pool.
The minimalist cabins were inspired by the area’s traditional fishermen huts. The simple, cube-like formations emit a sense of functionality on the exterior, while the all-white interiors speak to a more modern aesthetic. Clad in charred Douglas wood finish achieved through the Japanese technique shou sugi ban, the cabins are camouflaged into their natural surroundings. In addition to its beautiful appearance, the charred timber also adds sustainability and resilience to the design. The architects explained that the Japanese technique is one of their favorites, because there are “no toxins or chemicals involved, [it is] maintenance-free and shows the beauty of the veins of the wood itself.”
The two main cabins are connected through a wooden platform that was built around a large tree. This area not only connects the private spaces with the social living spaces but provides a beautiful spot to enjoy the fresh air. The entrance to the cabins is through two sliding glass doors. In contrast to the all-black exteriors, the interior of the cabins are bright and modern. With sparse furniture, concrete flooring and all-white walls, the living space boasts a soothing yet sophisticated atmosphere.
Photography by Nelson Garrido via Studio 3a