"Territory, overloaded of traces and past readings, looks rather like a palette. To create new structures, to make more rational use of certain lands, it is often indispensable to modify the substance irreversibly. But the territory is not a waste container or a consumer product that can be replaced. Each territory is unique, so it is necessary to recycle, scratch once more (but possibly with the utmost care) the old text that the men have inscribed on the irreplaceable material of the ground, to send a new one, Today, before being abrogated. "1


Where ice has imprint a valley, where the slope shows itself in its maximum expression, until it disappears in the water of the river, where it resists a way of living linked to simple rural gestures, a sequence of monolithic volumes draws a new artificial orography. A simple geometry, made of a few grooves, goes to inhabit a margin, measuring that portion of landscape. The Caldas de Manteigas, a project of baths, appears as lines of shadow along the slope. In a territory that, like the Serra da Estrela, in the center of Portugal, has so eroded land to create a constellation of granite outcrops, void stones sequences are emerging from the stone heart. Water brings life in the project: it becomes the hub of a full and empty system that stretches out to the landscape. The project of thermal baths in the Serra da Estrela was born from a targeted reading of the site, the valley of the River Zêzere, crushed between two peaks and plunged by a profound water shortage of thermal water.

In this rocky landscape the stones emerge from the ground and form the building material. The valley with its accentuated depression draws a net course in the landscape, which acquires thickness in its interval defined by road-river-road, and becomes a depository of different landscapes. A place made of wide open spaces that overlook the river and the opposite ridge of the mountain. Starting from these traces and signs that such a natural territory possesses, the project intends to create an intrinsic tension of the Manteigas landscape. Such a territory is so potential for natural aspects, how weak it is about the regeneration of rural areas. Several administrative addresses work to relaunch local identities in view of an international tourist landscape. The project aims to transform an identity portion of a small center, an abandoned industrial area, to make it an example for regeneration of rural areas.

The orography of the territory has been one of the most significant suggestions and traces of the project. A rugged territory brings is difficult to live it, le solutions could be from the terraces for the cultivation to the connecting stairs.

It is the terracing that best represents the artificialization of a natural territory: blocking the land with containment walls. Just these containment walls in the project inhabit and dig in the spaces of life. Coupling two slopes means creating one above and one below: one over which becomes a terrace, a “belvedere” and a sub which becomes a "grotta" or "cavity" (inhabited). According to this massive work and excavated earth, light is the center of attention, which is either zenital or lateral. It solidifies in light cones and pierces the interior of the baths.

If one of the first ways we inhabited the earth is the digging operation, with prehistoric caves, F. Venezia tells us. It is then wondering if it is possible today to rediscover the values ​​of architecture through the earth-cavity binomial.

The project wants to restore a relationship with the steep character: different are the shares that the spa complex generates, with different patios that handle the joints between buildings but at the same time excavate empty in stone land.

1 A. Corboz, Il territorio come palinsesto, in Ordine Sparso. Saggi sull'arte, il metodo, la città e il territorio, Urbanistica , 2006

architect . vacuum
location . Serra da Estrela, portugal
status . Master Thesis, 2017, Politecnico of Milan

Foreign reference: Anna Bacchetta (Francisco Aires Mateus arquitectos)
Supervisor: Massimiliano Roca (Roca Massimiliano Architetto)
Thesis correlator: Sandra Maglio (Phd - Politecnico di Milano, Form_A studio)