Amid the flowing hills, woodland trails, and pristine coastlines of the Alentejo region in Portugal, sits ‘Pa.te.os’—a series of interconnected concrete courtyard houses overlooking the Atlantic. Designed by acclaimed architecture studio Aires Mateus, the complex is a breathtaking place to disconnect, regenerate, and delve head-first into the region’s stillness, slow-life pace, and beauty. Last summer, we had the chance to experience the retreat in person, and it took little to draw us into it.
Cork oak forests, rolling vineyards, endless coastlines, and heavenly sunsets—Alentejo comprises this and more. For the past years, this charming rural region just south of Lisbon has inspired a burst of architectural creativity in the Portuguese hospitality industry, with boutique hotels, intimate eco-design lodges, and cultural immersions popping up in the area.Though most are found in and around the picturesque village of Comporta—a fashionable destination and one of the rising stars of southern Portugal—other spellbinding spots, including the still-unassuming town of Melides, are slowly developing and becoming popular with holidaymakers. Located a short drive from the latter (and an hour and half trip from Lisbon), the four-villa complex Pa.te.os is the latest addition to the local hospitality and creative scene. Perfectly sandwiched between the green hills of Serra de Grândola and the sparkling waves of the ocean, the retreat seeks to take the staples of the region to the next level, infusing superb postcard views with two extra ingredients: contemporary luxury and minimalist architecture.
An exciting journey into remoteness, the retreat is completely in sync with its location and environment
Reaching Pa.te.os is an exciting journey into remoteness—a short yet scenic drive through wild and rugged cork and arbutus groves, wildflowers and wheatfields. Neatly tucked away among 80 hectares of rural land, the project is the vision of hoteliers Sofia and Miguel Charters of Primosfera—a family-run property development company with an impressive track record of projects already under their belt. The owners intended for the project to be completely in sync with its specific location and environment, and to maximize outdoor living while keeping seclusion and privacy at its core. Walking around the premises, one can easily see the work and commitment to sustainability that went into bringing this vision to life. The atmosphere feels immediately convivial yet intimate, and the space functional yet respectful, protected and secluded yet never eerily isolated.
The complex is rooted in Alentejo’s historical settlements and traditions and presents a simple layout that encourages natural movements through the spaces. Aires Mateus, the mastermind behind the architecture, looked at the region’s rich context and character for inspiration and conceived four sculptural concrete structures which blend seamlessly into the rugged terrain. As the name Pa.te.os—’patios’ in Portuguese—suggests, the design explores the area’s legacy of courtyard houses and the concept of the patio as the crossroad of nature and human-made construction. Striking in their simple, industrial forms, the four independent villas are engulfed in greenery and carefully designed to frame nature at every turn. Each volume is strategically oriented towards the Atlantic azure waters, with interiors extending into private courtyards and terraces for lounging, outdoor living, and openings framing the sweeping Alentejan skies.
A graphic dialogue between light and dark makes entering the villa’s patios a special experience hard to replicate. The combination of large and small openings in the architecture highlights the perpetual passage of time, by allowing sunlight to enter the courtyard, bring out the contours of its structure, and create geometric shapes and unique blends of color and depths on the exposed concrete walls. This provides the architecture with drama, structural richness, movement and an intriguing sense of mystery. Here, nature becomes part of the architecture, and vice-versa.
A graphic dialogue between light and dark provides the architecture with drama and movement
Though all different from one another—from one- to three-bedroom suites—each house comes with a private patio, outdoor showers sheltered by view, private rooms and bathrooms, and a main living space composed of kitchen, dining, and sitting areas. If outside, the design may seem simple, almost monastic, the ambience immediately tilts into a softer and warmer dimension once inside the villa. Stepping in, one is instantly enveloped by a curated fragrance that enraptures the senses, while the generous space, abundant natural light, and high ceilings gently enhance the elegant contemporary decor. Equally subtle and aesthetically driven as the rest of the complex, the interior spaces look out to far-reaching land and seascape views through colossal floor-to-ceiling glass windows, which become canvases of the surrounding nature, as they open and disappear inside the walls, bringing in the sounds, smells, and sights of the land.
Though plain and minimalist, there is a luxurious elegance to the overall aesthetic of the interiors. From the heated polished concrete floors, to the soft curves of the fireplace, and the earthy color palette, everything soothes the body and mind. Sublime and fitted with immense care, the suites are a modern take on Scandinavian design and a compelling tale of tactility and texture. Design classics by Carl Hansen, Ferm Living, Menu, Gervasoni, and more, sit alongside textiles that adhere to the neutral hues for a feeling of tranquility and comfort, including prestigious linen sheets and incredibly soft towels. As a harmonizing presence that further connects the property to its environment’s heritage, there are also botanical prints in the kitchen and artworks by Olga Sanina in the living areas—a tribute to the region and its intriguing seasonality.
Pa.te.os is primarily intended for a sedate sojourn dotted by invigorating wellness experiences
Pa.te.os is primarily intended for a sedate sojourn dotted by invigorating wellness experiences. At the complex, days start with a freshly prepared breakfast of red fruits and granola, Alentejan cheese, pieces of bread, coffee, and freshly squeezed juices, which are set up inside the house without disrupting the guests’ sleep. A relaxing massage on demand and private yoga sessions await in the late morning hours, while afternoons are best enjoyed at the infinity pool—the best ingredient to Pa.te.os’ recipe of relaxation. Set against a captivating rural backdrop, the pool is arranged in the shape of an arrow that points directly to the horizon, reflecting its endless plays of colors throughout the day. Around it, loungers create a welcoming communal courtyard to enjoy an evening glass of Alentejan wine before tucking into a meal in the private homes or heading to the nearby towns for traditional cuisine.
Though activities can still be found by those looking for them, Pa.te.os is a place of near-absolute peace, not concerned with adventures. With a palpable less-is-more philosophy, the project merges fine design with a rich yet simple way of life, bridging the slow lifestyle the Alentejo region is known for. Designed to be a home away from home, here, a fully curated guest experience and a strong sense of place are the central features. From the intimacy of the villas to the overwhelming beauty of the gardens and the feeling of stillness expanding until the ocean—where the drama is back in spades—the place contributes exquisitely to the liberation from the restraints of everyday life. Much is left here, but much is also taken with on the trip back home—from the incredible feeling as the sea breeze mixes with the smells of flowers to the long-lasting memories of the orange sun setting behind the pool and trees in an explosion of colors.