Elderly care centre in Portugal has windows higher than the ceilings

facade of elderly care centre
© João Morgado

Windows are wonderful, but can you have too much of a good thing?

Housing for older people is often rather boring, built on tight budgets and value-engineered within an inch of its life. That's why this project in Portugal designed by Nuno Piedade Alexandre is so interesting: it looks quite lovely.

floor plan care centre© Nuno Piedade Alexandre
What we are looking at is the bit on the right, apparently an addition to a much larger building; the architects write that "the building main aim was that of nurturing the necessity of extra bedrooms on the main existing building having therefore functionally some connections and circulations... established between the two."

windows from inside© João Morgado

This TreeHugger often complains about windows being bigger than they have to be, but this building is all about windows that are even higher than the ceilings themselves – windows that are 3.5 meters high in front of rooms that are 2.7m high. This "brought inside in some way a light that was before unavailable."

evening windows elderly care centre© João Morgado

Architectese is hard to understand even when written by native English speakers, and it is even tougher to understand when translated, but I think they are saying here that they have designed a special sculptural moment:

The volume dematerializes itself through the projection of the rooms outwards, distorting main facade in the search for a special sculptural moment that can speak for itself and be kind of singular, also in the way that every patient should be. The attention to the patients and its users has always been the main aim for the building, being the capture of the most area of outside landscape possible it’s biggest representation.

window closeup© João Morgado

Windows are often a problem for architects, especially in colder climates where big, good quality windows are expensive and where even the best windows don't perform as well as a bad wall. In the middle of Portugal, architects have a bit more latitude. This building is all about windows; they are the most dominant feature. They are THE design element.

Architect Christine Albertsson has written that "windows are the soul of any house. Thoughtfully proportioned and placed in a wall, they establish the scale and character of a space like no other building element can. An incorrectly placed sill height can just as easily take away the pleasure of a lake side view, just as a carefully placed one can connect the inside to the outside in a very direct way."

windows closeup elderly care centre© João Morgado

When I received the pitch for this building from photographer João Morgado I was quite taken with the building. But now I am wondering whether when it comes to windows, you can have too much of a good thing.

Window closup inside© João Morgado

Elderly care centre in Portugal has windows higher than the ceilings
Windows are wonderful, but can you have too much of a good thing?

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