Eco-Tourism and Sustainable Architecture at Casa Modesta in Portugal
Casa Modesta in southern Portugal is a rural yet contemporary retreat located in the midst of a protected national park by the Algarve coast. It's where sustainable design meets organic food in an oasis of natural splendor.
The furthest south you can go in Portugal, set on the edge of the Ria Formosa lagoon, you find Casa Modesta – a small retreat located in Quatrim do Sul, which is a part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. Elected one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal, the park is a protected area of about 18 000 hectares by the Algarve coast, shielded from the sea by five barrier-islands and two peninsulas – a paradise for bird watchers and culture-hunting eco tourists alike. The small hotel of nine rooms, each with an on-suite and private patio, sits midst all this natural splendor, just a stone’s throw off the shoreline, facing the sea. From its grounds, you can watch the migration of birds, shellfish being gathered or salt being harvested from the saline waters. A lovely and peaceful way to spend one’s time, we imagine.
The whitewashed building with its exposed terracotta bricks has been sustainably built from the ground up using traditional knowledge and architectural culture, local people and materials. The rural yet contemporary site with its minimalist design is the result of careful renovation of a 1940’s house originally built by owner Carlos Fernandes’ grandfather – a local fisherman. The project reinterpreted the pre-existing house from family memories, also embracing elements of the regional architecture, which are visible in the tank, the flat roof terraces, the exterior stairs, the covered patio, the wood oven, and the water cistern. This has, as Fernandes explains it, created autonomous rooms, integrated with the nuclear home (kitchen, living and dining rooms) and common spaces like the workshop room and tank.
At Casa Modesta, they make the most of the Algarve summers, adapting to the local customs of gathering clams, baking bread, and harvesting and drying fruits. Also offering a range of spa treatments, they take advantage of the natural properties of local olives, almonds, fleur de sel and algae. From the garden, a selection of organic vegetables are grown for the kitchen, which are cooked and served together with seafood from sustainable fishing and bio meat. Other seasonal ingredients come from the supplies of small farm producers, or are daily fresh finds from the market. The organic menu gets its inspiration from the Mediterranean, with rich flavors coming from garden-grown herbs and sea salt, following traditional recipes handed down through generations.
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