Flashback: Tolo House / Alvaro Leite Siza

© FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

Architects: Alvaro Leite Siza
Client: Luís Marinho Leite Barbosa da Silva
Location: Lugar das Carvalhinhas – Alvite, freguesia de Cerva, Ribeira da Pena District
Site Area: 1000 sqm
Constructed Area: 180 sqm
Contractor: Óscar Gouveia
Landscape: Alvaro Leite Siza Vieira
Services: GOP
Project Start: 2000
Project Complete: 2005
Photographers: FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

This project is located on a site, with an area of around 1000m2, in Lugar das Carvalhinhas – Alvite, Cerva Parish, Ribeira da Pena Commune, Vila Real District.

© FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

The project consists of a holiday home with three bedrooms, a social bathroom, a living room, a dinning room, a small kitchen with a support washbasin, pantry, and even a small outdoor swimming pool.
The terrain is sharply inclined and has a particular configuration: it is very long and narrow. However, the fact that it faces south allows it to receive optimal solar exposure and to enjoy a particular natural view. The living area does not exceed 180m2.

section 02

For reasons of functionality and integration, it was opted to organize the main entrance based on the street where car transit was possible. This road leads to the northern higher part of the lot. Nevertheless, it is possible to access the house from a more rustic footpath from the south. Its fragmentation, necessary due to the steep topography, transforms the whole into a composition of small linked and interconnected volumes, creating an unevenness that allows for a more secure and rational use of the lot. In this way the house’s various functions are clarified with each elevation corresponding to a single compartment. The roof functions simultaneously as pavement support for the gardens: similar to the traditional threshing floors and patios in the northern regions of the country with hilly terrain.

© FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

With a linear position at the center of the lot, an attempt was made to preserve all the pre-existing trees, as they maintain a strong presence in the area, as well as to preserve continuity with the immediate surroundings and to ensure its original characteristics. The form resulting from a rigorous, modular geometric abstraction establishes the necessary rotation of certain modules to adapt to the natural morphology of the terrain, respecting the distance from neighboring regulation walls, thus appearing to move naturally and with absolute freedom.

general plans

The terrain’s instability together with modest economic resources gave rise to a house with triple function: the home itself and its interior space; the organization of outdoor leveled patios corresponding to the roofs of various levels which permit the outdoor use of the garden; and finally, the creation of a pedestrian link between the paths of the upper and lower levels that border this lot. In this way the house itself is a path. Its form organizes a fundamental outdoor route. The exterior that create a link between the patios mirror the interior that have the same function of linking the designed compartments that are also developed through levels. In this way, the exterior correspond to the interior ceilings.

© FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

Although this project presents an extreme unit in its language, from the four quadrants, its image varies completely. It expresses its entire volumetry to the southeast, and in a different way to the northeast. It is radically contextualized in the northwest and southwest quadrants. It is neither horizontal nor vertical architecture. Its location on the lot results in a slanting architecture.

The necessity of partially burying the house comes from lack of economic means, and in this way creates positive thermal behavior and security. The outdoor patios solidly adapt, establishing a direct link to the garden, and the house is naturally unified with the terrain. The choice of exposed concrete creates an idea like that of massive stones appearing naturally on the site. In this way, expressiveness is extracted from a continuous structure of reinforced concrete, the most efficient on the lot with these characteristics, and once again making optimum use of the modest economic resources available.

© FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra

Paving stones of reinforced concrete will also be constructed, creating an air space between these and the lot, which is fundamental for guaranteeing decent waterproofing and improved thermal behavior in the terrain with such an elevated water table. The reinforced concrete walls will contain an exterior finishing with special formwork, its stereotomy having been designed. PVC canvases will waterproof foundations, walls, and roofs.

sketch 02

The roofing will be covered with thermal insulation and prefabricated, anti-slip tiles. Some patios will be filled with humus for a grass plane. The few non-resistant walls will be built in cement blocks filled with sand. These will be plastered, coated and painted white in the interiors.
The interior floors, doors, and baseboards are in wood, except in the water areas. The exterior doors and windows are in metal, which are double-pained for improved thermal and acoustic insulation.

The photographic references are relative to the site on the internet: http://www.fernandoguerra.com/tolo/
For publishing them, you should contact the photographer Fernando Guerra.

Cite: "Flashback: Tolo House / Alvaro Leite Siza" 27 Sep 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=893>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    This house is really fantastic. The way the slope is treated and relatioship between spaces connected by series of stairs that are well articulated!… man i loved it!.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I translate this article to persian,and thats very intresting for me.i very enjoyed,thats nice………..”c’est magnifique”

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      hi negin
      im looking for a persian article about this fantastic house but i cant find it…

      can you help me?

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    tolo house is so fantastic.i am designing my tesis at the same situation & i have learned a lot of points from alvaro siza.thx.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    tolo house is so fantastic.i am designing my tesis at the same situation & i have learned a lot of points from alvaro siza.thx.به همه ی ایرانیان دیدن این کار رو توصیه می کنم

  5. Thumb up Thumb down -5

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Although I don’t have extensive knowledge in the field, the creation of space and use of material in the Tolo House is very similar to many of Tadao Ando’s works.
    Correct me in I’m wrong.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    a case study house!
    A work for the navel!

    Tolo is the cousin of Siza junior (which gave him total freedom to create),Amazingly is cousin, has a disabled child on a wellchair.
    So the house was for sale (300,000€)
    right after he saw it.

    the same architect says that archittecture is not sculpture and the building has to be funcional…

    in my humble opinion I like it, but wouldn´t live on it.
    it´s a space where i would like to go sometimes…but living is diferent…

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    this tolo “house” novel should be something like:

    (mum): “sweety, lunch is ready, could you please call your brother? his upstairs..”

    (kid): “watta f…”

    (mum): “…”

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I’ve been surfing on-line greater than 3 hours these days, but I never discovered any fascinating article like yours. It?s pretty price enough for me. In my view, if all website owners and bloggers made good content material as you probably did, the net might be much more useful than ever before.

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