"Designing homes is a truly intimate and personal endeavor." with Carlos Costa, Architect

Archi & Design
TUESDAY, may 23, 2023
For Carlos Costa, "Architecture becomes the purest reflection of the client in the creation of a house". Blending the client's dreams, desires, and personality transforms mere bricks and mortar into a living testament of individuality, aesthetics, and functionality. He shapes a space that truly belongs to its owner.

Introducing Carlos Costa, an architect with an unwavering passion for the stories of the past and the creation of new narratives. CEO and Creative Director of ObraAtelier Carlos finds delight in designing from scratch, continually striving to surprise clients and evoke feelings of passion through his architectural projects.
Drawing inspiration from history, he seamlessly blends the old and the new, seeking the perfect equilibrium. In 2010, Carlos, with his sister Helena, an architect, too, established Obra Atelier, a multidisciplinary studio encompassing architecture, interior design, and construction. The atelier specializes in residential projects, offering a holistic approach to transforming spaces into extraordinary homes. Their passion for creating homes that reflect the individuality and dreams of their clients is the driving force behind the studio specialization in residential architecture.

"Architecture is a common language for all people"

Carlos Costa, Architect

Carlos Costa, who, at the age of four, wanted to be a veterinarian. At that age, he had little interest in architecture. In his attachment to the land, the notions of technique and architectural design would have been far removed at the time, but now he considers that choosing architecture was something instinctive.

With the deep purpose of honoring history and integrating it into his life purpose, as a legacy, in 2015, Carlos is Co-founder of Alma de Luce, a prestigious luxury furniture brand that celebrates the heritage and diverse cultures around through its exquisite designs, bridging the gap between the past and the present.

In an exclusive interview with Helena Costa, get to know Carlos Costa, the Architect from Guimarães, Portugal, who has residences and homes as one of his passions.

Australia House backyard, Project by Obra Atelier

Helena Costa: Why architecture? When did you realize that architecture or design is your path?
Carlos Costa:
Architecture came about naturally, in fact, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. Nothing about architecture... but it was a discipline that involved me, and the desire to always surprise others through space modeling grew.

From a tender age, I had the privilege of accompanying my father, a contractor, to construction sites and architectural projects. These outings exposed me to the intricate world of architecture, igniting my curiosity and fueling my desire to create spaces that harmoniously blend functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Witnessing the dedication, creativity, and meticulous attention to detail displayed by my father and the construction teams, I became captivated by the process of bringing architectural visions to life. This early exposure molded my perspective, instilling in me a deep appreciation for the artistry and technical aspects of the profession.

Maybe It was this formative experience, shadowing my father amidst concrete, blueprints, and architectural plans, which ultimately led me to choose architecture as my path instead of being a veterinarian after all.

HC: Don't you think the idea of an architect or designer as an artist is accurate? What is your opinion?
The notion of an architect or designer as an artist is a topic that we debate regularly within the creative and architectural communities. It largely depends on how one defines art and the role of an artist.

Architecture is a discipline that involves many variables: function, safety, aesthetics, and, not least, emotion. In essence, architecture is a profoundly emotional experience and an art in which human beings participate. It is also an inherently immersive experience, capable of sensitizing our own embodied experience of space. In this sense, some argue that architects and designers should indeed be considered artists.

On the other hand, some believe that the purpose and function of architecture and design distinguish them from traditional art forms. Architecture and design are typically driven by practical considerations, such as meeting clients' needs, adhering to building codes and regulations, and addressing functional requirements. The creative process in architecture often involves a balance between artistic vision and practical constraints. From this perspective, the role of an architect or designer may be seen as distinct from that of a traditional artist.

I personally consider architects and designers to be artists. We build moments and inspire feelings... let's say we make art where we can live, work, and create a life. It's just another way of interacting, but it's still art.

Australia House, North View, Project by Obra Atelier

HC: You specialize in residential projects. What is the importance or responsibility of this type of project?
Designing and building homes is a truly intimate and personal endeavor. Architecture becomes the purest reflection of the client in the creation of a house. From the initial spark of imagination to the final construction, every decision reflects the client's personality, dreams, and desires. A home is not just a structure; it's a sanctuary that encapsulates who you are - your shelter, your refuge, and your personal retreat.

When embarking on the journey of designing a home, it starts with understanding the customer at a deep level. Architects and designers investigate the client's preferences, lifestyle, and aspirations, seeking to capture the essence of their being. Through careful listening, collaboration, and exploration, the house's vision takes shape - a vision uniquely tailored to the client.

Architecture has the power to turn dreams into reality. It is the language through which the client's personality is translated into tangible forms, spaces, and aesthetics. The layout, materials, and details come together to tell a story - a story intricately woven with the threads of the client's identity. The design process is an opportunity to combine functionality with artistic expression, creating a harmonious environment that integrates seamlessly with the client's lifestyle.

And in the end, a house is more than bricks and mortar; it is a sanctuary that nourishes and protects. It is a space where we create memories, families, and dreams are fulfilled. Each room, each corner, bears the stamp of the client's personality, making it a truly personal refuge. In the design and construction of a home, the client's spirit is forever captured - a reflection that stands the test of time.

In conclusion, designing and building homes is an intimate and personal journey. It's an opportunity to translate the client's personality, dreams, and desires into a tangible form - a place to call home. The architecture becomes the vehicle through which the client's vision comes to life, creating a sanctuary that is uniquely theirs. A house is not merely a structure; it is a reflection of the client's essence, their dreams manifesting into reality. It is a testament to your individuality, shelter, and the embodiment of your most authentic self.

Australia House, Oporto, Portugal. Project by Obra Atelier

HC: What do you love most about your work?
I cherish countless aspects of my work, but one element stands out above all else: the power to shape spaces and touch people's lives. 

Designing buildings is not merely about constructing structures; it's about creating environments that evoke emotions, inspire awe, and enhance the human experience. Each project presents a unique set of challenges, demanding a delicate balance between artistic expression and practicality.

The ability to transform a blank canvas into a living, breathing testament to creativity is a privilege that constantly fuels my passion. Every line I draw, every material I choose, and every detail I refine is an opportunity to mold a space that will leave a lasting impact on its occupants.

Whether it's a soaring skyscraper that punctuates a city skyline or a cozy home that offers solace and warmth, the art of architecture enables me to craft spaces that resonate with people's souls and become a part of their stories. This transformative and deep human connection makes my work as an architect so profoundly fulfilling.

House Lot 4, Project by Obra Atelier

HC: Tell us about the project in your portfolio that you are proudest of.
All project works are developed with the dedication and emotion that awakens us. However, one of the last ones is known as the House of Australias. It was a project aimed at preserving the architectural and cultural heritage of the northern part of Portugal while incorporating modern elements to give it a fresh and contemporary touch. One of the key features of this project was the sloping roof, which is characteristic of the northern Portuguese landscape.

The integration of the sloping roof was crucial in adding charm and uniqueness to the house. It was a complex undertaking, but what made it truly special was the active involvement of the clients throughout the project. They were constantly present and provided valuable input and suggestions, some of which led to innovative solutions. The collaboration between the clients, the architectural professionals, and the entire team involved in the project created a strong sense of teamwork.

The success of this project lies in the combination of traditional architectural elements, such as the sloping roof, with modern and youthful design elements. The fluidity of the spaces was another important aspect of the design. The relationship between the interior and exterior of the house was carefully considered, with the common room extending seamlessly to the outside and creating a harmonious integration of both spaces.

The sloping roof was undoubtedly the star of the project. Its geometry, shape, and style became the focal point and required minimal additional decoration. It not only added aesthetic appeal but also increased the ceiling height, creating a sense of spaciousness and well-being in the living areas.

In addition to the sloping roof, the project featured other noteworthy details, such as the use of shale stone, which added visual interest and captivated the attention of anyone who experienced the space. The successful outcome of Casa das Australias can be attributed to the collective effort of the team, who, in just a few months, managed to combine the clients' captivating vision and dreams with the technical expertise and vision of the architectural professionals. It was a mission accomplished, and the project stands as a testament to the fruitful collaboration and the realization of the clients' aspirations.


House of Ripado, Portugal. Project by Obra Atelier

HC: Bjarke Ingles says, "Architecture is about trying to make the world a little more like ours dreams." What do you think about this, and what is your dream project?
As an architect, I completely resonate with Bjarke Ingels' perspective on architecture. Architecture is indeed a powerful medium through which we can shape our surroundings and bring our dreams to life. It allows us to transcend the limitations of reality and create spaces that inspire, uplift, and connect people.

Every architect harbors their own unique dreams and aspirations when it comes to their ideal project. For me, the ultimate dream project would be designing a sustainable and self-sufficient eco-city. Picture a visionary urban utopia where cutting-edge technology, innovative design, and nature coexist harmoniously. This dream project would prioritize a strong sense of community, abundant green spaces, renewable energy sources, and efficient waste management systems. It would be a place where people can live, work, and play in perfect balance with the environment, fostering a healthier and more fulfilling way of life.

Such a project would not only redefine the boundaries of sustainable design but also serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for future generations. It would demonstrate the immense potential of architecture to create a better world—one that aligns with our aspirations and imaginations and ultimately contributes to the well-being of both individuals and the planet.

Architects have the incredible privilege and responsibility to shape the physical environment we inhabit. By infusing our designs with the essence of our dreams, we can truly make a positive impact and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.

Ultimately, an architect's dream project would aim to leave a lasting legacy, creating spaces and structures that not only captivate the imagination but also contribute positively to society, inspire future generations, and make our dreams of a better world a tangible reality.

House of Waves, Project by Obra Atelier

HC: Is there any material that inspires you?
As an architect, I find myself constantly drawn to the beauty and potential of different materials. Among them, wood and concrete have always held a special place in my heart and my creative vision. 

Wood, with its inherent elegance, captivates me with its smoothness and texture. It possesses a unique warmth and organic quality that brings a sense of comfort and harmony to any space it adorns. Its smoothness under my fingertips and the intricate patterns that emerge from its grain evokes a sense of timelessness and craftsmanship. The texture of wood tells a story, reflecting nature's artistry and offering a soothing visual and tactile experience. How it can be carved, shaped, and crafted into intricate details is a testament to its versatility and timeless beauty. 

On the other hand, concrete fascinates me with its raw strength and inherent plasticity. It holds the potential to be molded into bold, minimalist forms, and its ability to seamlessly blend with various architectural styles is genuinely remarkable. It's solid presence and urban aesthetic bring an industrial elegance to my designs, while its durability and structural capabilities provide a sense of reliability.

Wood and concrete, The interplay between wood's tactile charm and concrete's sculptural possibilities are contrasting yet complementary qualities that fuel my creativity and allow me to design spaces that harmoniously blend nature and human ingenuity.

House of Waves, Project by Obra Atelier

HC: What advice would you give to a student looking to follow in your footsteps?
Reflecting on my journey and the lessons I've learned as an Architect, the advice I would give to a student aspiring to follow in my footsteps is simple yet profound.

First and foremost, cultivate a deep passion for architecture and let it fuel your drive. Immerse yourself in the world of design, studying the works of renowned architects and exploring diverse architectural styles and movements. Embrace the power of observation and constantly seek inspiration from the world around you. Architecture is a multifaceted discipline that requires a deep understanding of various fields, ranging from art and design to engineering and construction. So, develop a strong foundation in both technical and artistic skills, as they form the backbone of any successful architect.

Be open to collaboration and learning from others, as architecture is a multidisciplinary field that thrives on teamwork. Embrace failures and setbacks as valuable learning opportunities, allowing them to shape and refine your approach.

Finally, always maintain sight of the profound impact architecture can have on society and strive to create spaces that not only inspire but also enhance the lives of those who inhabit them. With perseverance, a hunger for knowledge, and an unwavering commitment to your craft, you can forge a path in architecture that leaves an indelible mark on the world.

Carlos Costa Architect , Studio ObraAtelier , Alma de Luce , Portugal Architects , Luxury Furniture , Archi and Design Magazine , Alma de Luce Interviews


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