Set amid a cork forest in rural Portugal, Villa Alem was built to be a refuge that blended into its surroundings, a one-story concrete compound with red-tinged walls that pick up the color of the rusty red soil. Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati sought a less obtrusive way to provide shade behind the building's 18-foot-high walls, which surround the interior courtyard, garden and pool. His solution—eaves that lean out at a 45-degree angle, a design Olgiati likens to flower petals—gives the appearance of packaging, the Dropbox logo set amidst rural vineyards. It also exemplifies his sculptural use of concrete, which can be big and monumental and still create a serene environment.
Inside the bent walls, Olgiati's escape recalls a pool deck by Louis Kahn. The simple patio and courtyard, as well as a shaded dining area, look upon the rectangular pool and an opening in the wall that offers a glance of the surrounding oak forest. The minimal interior rooms, which the architect himself refers to as "introverted," do have a colder, cave-like appearance. As the framing of the outdoors from the office suggests, this is a structure meant to enhance and draw focus to the landscape.