cork house camouflages into surrounding portuguese woodlands

Inês Brandão Arquitectura clads home in cork


Inês Brandão Arquitectura’s ‘Cork House’ is a modern, sustainable home located in the serene woodlands of Aroeira, Portugal. The house takes its name from the distinctive renewable and recyclable cork cladding the upper half of the façade, its tone and texture camouflaging the structure within the surrounding forest of pine trees. Fulfilling the client’s wish to have a home that is at once both a quiet and intimate dwelling, and also an energetic social space for hosting family and friends, the Portuguese architecture studio composes the Cork House as two adjacent volumes that open out onto an idyllic Mediterranean style garden. While one volume is dedicated entirely to social, communal spaces, the second volume houses the more private living spaces.

sustainable cork house by inês brandão arquitectura camouflages into surrounding portuguese pine tree woodlands
all images courtesy of Inês Brandão Arquitectura



cork house is integrated into its woodland context


Having long been a popular spot for holiday homes due to its proximity to the Portuguese coast, Aroeira has encountered an abrupt division of land resulting in the devastation of the pine forest area. In an effort to protect the natural beauty of the woodlands and counter the careless trend of destroying pine trees with construction, Inês Brandão Arquitectura integrates the Cork House into its surrounding landscape, preserving the natural context. The Lisbon-based architects select cork as the main covering layer, its colour and texture mirroring that of the trunks of the encircling pine trees, effectively camouflaging the house. An entirely sustainable material, the cork is renewable and resistant, and guarantees excellent thermal insulation for the house. 


The client desired their home to be both a quiet shelter for themselves, as well as a playful, social space for family and friends to gather. Uniting these two distinct functions, Inês Brandão Arquitectura develops the house as two adjacent volumes with opposing directions. A single-storey longitudinal, low-lying body with the open social areas, sits adjacent to a smaller two-storey block housing the private areas of the house. These volumes are articulated through a main circulation axis starting from the entrance, which establishes a connection with the private areas as it extends to the social living space. Another perpendicular axis on the first floor holds the guest rooms, which open onto the large rooftop terrace atop the first volume housing the living area. This arrangement ensures that the exterior areas of the Cork House are divided to provide distinct experiences with various scales of privacy. Large sliding glass doors seamlessly merge the exterior and interior social areas into one, revealing a spatial fluidity; when opened, the external terrace becomes connected to the open plan living, dining and kitchen social spaces. 

sustainable cork house by inês brandão arquitectura camouflages into surrounding portuguese pine tree woodlands
a low white wall surrounds the northeast and northwest facades, creating a private visual barrier with the public road



a sustainable holiday home in Aroeira, portugal


Sustainability and environmental design are key concepts in the Cork House, and Inês Brandão Arquitectura employs a set of passive solutions that reduce energy costs. The architects define an appropriate solar orientation for the house, promote natural ventilation and lighting, and use external shading systems. The large glass doors, and narrow windows lining the axial corridor along the back of the Cork House, opening to the southeast and southwest, enable ample natural lighting is filtered into the space.


Considering the region’s climate and increasingly accentuated scarcity of water, the architects create a Mediterranean style garden on the central deck and the rooftop terrace. Avoiding grassy areas, the soil has been covered with gravel and pine bark, ensuring its permeability, without the need for watering. Both volumes of Cork House open out onto the central decked terrace holding the gravelled garden and a swimming pool.

sustainable cork house by inês brandão arquitectura camouflages into surrounding portuguese pine tree woodlands
cork clads the upper half of the façade, camouflaging the structure within the surrounding pine trees

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