In Portimão, there is an architecture studio headed by three partners with different backgrounds and visions who, together, develop unique projects with a “Moroccan touch and Portuguese techniques”.
Dutch entrepreneur Arnold Aarssen and Portuguese architects Joana Dalmau Pinto and João Carriço are behind StudioArte Architecture & Design, which was founded in 2002 with the aim of serving the life purpose of its clients.
They have been working together for almost 14 years on different projects that include new residential modern and bioclimatic homes, rehab projects (which they call ‘rehab labs’), and commercial buildings, always with the aim of defining new ways of living set to high standards and contemporary designs, “more economical and conscious, whilst respecting the environment and natural resources”, said the StudioArte CEO.
Arnold Aarssen is a big traveller and has moved more than 30 times. In 1994, he bought a plot of land with three houses on it in Silves, one of which was his own and, 10 years later, he extended it to be the StudioArte office. His professional career began in the hotel industry, which gave him the opportunity to work in project development and architecture in this area.
He is currently part of two other Portuguese companies active in real estate and property design, named Espírito Verde (partner of BioclimaticHouses, focusing on sustainable and eco-friendly projects), and Generoso e Poético. Simultaneously, he is working on new high-quality kitchen lines and on a furniture line, as well as in various development projects in the Algarve.
He considers himself a creative and self-taught person, who has learned to design houses, home features, kitchens, and outdoor areas. Since he has travelled so much and lived in several countries, he believes that working in Portuguese architecture requires local professionals with an understanding of legal matters, City Council procedures and who can speak the language.
That is why he hired João, from Peniche, and Joana, who is originally from Silves but was working in Lisbon at the time. Both had different ambitions: João wanted to be a DJ and Joana a painter, but their talent for putting creative ideas to paper and turning dream houses into reality led them to architecture, where they mix lines, shapes, volumes, and play with lights and colours.
It all started in a studio located in Silves, but Portimão’s proximity to the sea and the river led the team to choose a workplace with more “city life”, said Arnold Aarssen, who acts as the creative director and consultant of StudioArte, confessing that he had no doubts when making this decision. “We should be in a city that has what we need most,” he explained, adding that the many “houses falling into pieces” he saw made him realise that “there was work to do”.
Currently, Arnold leads a multinational team of 16 architects and interior designers, half of which are Portuguese. From Italians, Argentinians, Brazilians, and Dutch, to Tunisians, they all live in Portimão, in accommodation provided by the company.
Their daily tasks are based on property development and project management, both nationally and internationally, with projects in the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy, many in private villas, and luxury renovations.
Arnold Aarssen believes StudioArte stands out for its “uniqueness” and sets itself apart with its “specific Portuguese and sustainable signature”, with an easily identifiable concept, and adds that this characteristic brings them “a very wide variety of clients”.
The lines of the houses and the use of light are the architects’ primary concerns, such as the hidden windows or a certain angle in the façade. “We work a lot with a blind wall from the northern part to protect people from the cold and we play with the light in a way that lets it come in but leaving the sun out,” illustrated the creative director.
Even though they have a lot in common, each work has its own particularities, which can be seen in the company’s reference projects, such as Casa Simão, Casa Joana and Vale da Lama.
The first one distinguishes itself for its solid geometric shapes developed over several levels and suspended glass walkways, with a dry-garden landscape concept.
Meanwhile, Casa Joana has an expansive and open feeling, based on a minimalist approach and a stylish little courtyard and a splash pool. In a different approach, there is Vale da Lama, a building where a sustainable structure integrates the terrain and the ground, instead of discarding it, creating a green roof that helps regulate the temperature, and reduce the amount of storm-water runoff.
Comfort and privacy are always taken into consideration, as are the customers’ wishes. “It’s important to listen carefully to the client’s dream and understand if it’s possible to do the job,” Arnold clarified, highlighting that they do not accept “impossible missions”. Their procedure is simple: it always starts with a “pre-check”, followed by a proposal in which the team presents the idea, the whole process, and a price scheme.
Nearly all of the projects approved by StudioArte use a mix of materials in order to be as eco-friendly as possible. “We prioritise wooden structures and roofs, cork and natural insulation, and ventilated foundation,” Arnold commented, emphasising that these are national products installed by local professionals.
The concern for the environment is reflected in the aim of reducing certain features in the Algarve, such as gardens with grass or huge swimming pools, to save water, or air conditioning, giving more cost-effective solutions to maintain a pleasant temperature at home.
The desire to explore “urban development” in a city that “attracts different types of tourists” has helped the company grow since its creation. StudioArte is preparing to move to a large property in Rua Infante Dom Henrique, where there will be a big office working with many partners. But that is not all; on top will be built “one of the most beautiful penthouses in Portimão”, according to Arnold Aarssen.
StudioArte’s goal is to become a “well-known company” throughout Europe and change mentalities by promoting respect for nature. “We want to move fast and promote the healthiest way of living,” highlighted Arnold, stressing that “every small step is significant for the near future”.
By BEATRIZ MAIO