Playing with contrast in a Portuguese family home

Four glass wood-framed pivot doors

Lisbon is also known as the ‘city of light’. The seven hills surrounding the Portuguese capital offer a gorgeous view of the Tagus River. Just past the city, it drains to the Atlantic Ocean, reflecting the sunlight against the hills. A source of inspiration for many architects, because the incidence of light often leads to beautiful designs. In the triptych Stories of Lisbon’s Light, we take you along three of those sun-drenched designs. This is the last in the series: a family home built to a design by Pedro Domingos.

In this last part of FritsJurgens’ triptych, Stories of Lisbon’s light, we discover how architect Pedro Domingos designed a home where daylight and the river Tagus play the leading roles.

With the residence facing the south, radical architectural choices had to be made to allow the light to flow through the entire residence. Watch the interview and discover the third story of FritsJurgens’ new video series, Opening up.


Open space

In the vibrant district of Restelo, a unique four-story family home rises from the hills. It has an elongated shape and a robust exterior made of impeccable gray-colored concrete. The residence was designed on the drawing table of architect Pedro Domingos, who believes that the relationship between the indoors and the outdoors is crucial. ‘Just as with all our projects, we were cautious when designing the windows and doors: they are very important to connect the interior and the exterior with each other.’ This is reflected in the striking choice of design: four pivot doors in a row between the study and the garden. The design does not only allow for a lot of sunlight to come in, it also opens up the space leading to the outside.

Manufactured by Carpilux, Photo by Filcotec
Manufactured by Carpilux, Photo by Filcotec
Manufactured by Carpilux, Photo by Filcotec
Manufactured by Carpilux, Photo by Filcotec
Manufactured by Carpilux
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Strength of the pivot door

Domingos opted for pivot doors with large windows that, thanks to their versatility, are ideal to make the indoor and outdoor space one whole. ‘Open them and you step straight into the garden. When closed, they don’t disturb your view at all,’ he explains. ‘And what's more, you can adjust the opened door to the size of the terrace.’ For a constant connection between the house and the garden, the windows had to be as large as possible. That proved quite difficult, says Domingos. ‘We could not find any brand that manufactured smoothly pivoting windows of such a large size.’ After some searching, he found the solution in the FritsJurgens pivoting hinges. Thanks to those, large movements were no longer a problem, which gave the Portuguese architect total freedom of design.

Read more about all possible applications of pivot doors


Playing with contrast

‘This house is located in an urban area,’ says Domingos. ‘But we also wanted to include the Tagus River in the design. With both the city and nature in mind, I ended up with a mixture of hard, soft and detailed material.’ This is reflected in the wooden window frames, which were finished with much care. All those small details in the wood contrast nicely with the smooth, robust exterior of the house. ‘This places even more emphasis on the relationship between the indoors and the outdoors’, claims the architect.

In direct sunlight

What makes this house unique, is the maximum use of the incidence of light. This was quite a challenge. Because the residence is facing south, it was difficult to have sufficient light on the northern side. This is why Domingos used many openings and possibilities to allow sunlight in. ‘We decided to move all the stairs in the house to the northern façade, leaving the space between the staircases open. We then used a roof window to let the stairs radiate in sunlight.’ This allows plenty of sunlight to enter, even on the ‘dark’ side of the house.


Design of tomorrow

Among other things thanks to the collaboration with FritsJurgens, Domingos looks back on the construction of the sun-drenched house with satisfaction. ‘The possibility to work with such a pivoting system – and then a system with this capacity – is unprecedented. Moreover, it is a perfectly engineered system.’ Enough reason to suggest this option for new projects as well, says Domingos. ‘This solution could work well for everybody!’

System 3

For all pivot doors, Domingos used the FritsJurgens System 3, which allow the doors to pivot 360°. And what’s also handy: that complete pivot movement is effortlessly combined with the self-closing capacity and hold positions of the doors. From a 45° angle, the hinge automatically pivots to angles of 0°, 90°, 180° or 270°. It only takes the slightest push to move the door to a hold position.

More about the functionalities of System 3


This was the last episode of Opening up: Stories of Lisbon's Light. Interested to learn more? View the whole series on Youtube.