Vítor Vitorino

"I live every hour of architecture intensely”

Chilled, chatty and daring in his projects, Vítor Vitorino fell in love with dance early on, but it was in architecture that he chose to commit himself to. Today, he is recognised for the many projects he has developed throughout his career. Vitorino’s thoughts take him beyond normal bounds. He travels in search for more knowledge, likes to get to know other cultures and is fascinated by architectural projects from all over the world. He gets his inspiration from what he sees, from what he feels and from the unexpected. He challenges his creativity whenever a new project arises, bringing with him the experience of more than 20 years. He likes to go unnoticed, even though he currently is more talked about because he is in charge of the project for Cristiano Ronaldo’s property in Cascais. He doesn’t define himself with a style, because he easily adapts to what the client is looking for. He lives for architecture. But he has in mind to one day ‘switch off’ and have more time to do what also fulfils him, canoeing, which he practises whenever possible. In an interview with TRENDS, he spoke about the before, the now and the future. Let’s get to know him in the following lines and in the video interview, available online. 

Have you always dreamed about architecture?

Always. Ever since I was very young. My father was a ‘civil construction designer’ (as they used to call the course in Portugal). I have always lived amidst projects and, although there was a time when I pulled back a bit, even from school, my first project was when I was 13. I was involved in dance for a while, but then there came a day when I had to completely abandon the dance part and follow architecture. I just couldn’t create both things anymore.

What kind of dance?
 It was hip hop and aerobics. It all had to do with creating choreographies, and that’s like architecture, it’s spontaneous. I never put choreographies together, it was what came out on the fly. I soon found myself giving classes and doing shows, putting together choreographies for groups, until I created Dance 4 Kids (which is well known in Oporto). For a while, I juggled the two things, but then I had to choose, and I went into architecture.

You created your first project at the age of 13. What project was it?
A house, in Vila Chã. I liked going to the office to draw, so my taste for creating started early on. What’s more, I had uncles that were connected to the arts, to paintings, and who, in a certain way, encouraged and helped me, even during university. I was very lazy; I was always a slacker and I never liked to study (laughs). I just wanted to get the degree so that I could practice, because I already had the vocation. If it hadn’t been necessary, I don't think I would have finished it. Honestly, I can’t get anything out of a course in architecture, and I’m sorry to say this, but it’s a fact. I don’t think what you’re taught is what real life is about, and that’s a shame.

Does doing architecture take you out of your comfort zone or is it something you live for intensely?
I live every hour of architecture intensely. I wake up at night and think about my work. My gym is a treadmill, always with the screen in front of me, where I watch programmes about houses, luxury, everything that is eccentric... I always pick up something and I love seeing architectural work by colleagues. As I’m doing such different houses, from such different cultures, I have this need to devour all those styles. I absorb everything from the client and go out looking to satisfy them. 

What is the VVARQ style?
Right now, I can’t even define myself with a style. For example, I'm doing some exposed concrete houses that I never thought I would do, because I didn’t like it, and I’m enjoying the mix of wood and concrete. Other times, I try to counter it with marbles. In one of my projects in Cascais, in Quinta da Marinha, I’m working with grey travertine, but doused with acids, to get the texture and colour of concrete, and I’m also working with pau rosa wood.

"I think those who come to me know how I work”

What are the main challenges that an architect encounters during the time he is designing the project and, afterwards, when following up on that same project, but already on site?
We have several challenges. I only start creating a project when I already have it in my head. First of all, I create something three-dimensional, then I go to the computer and think about it, I live in it, and only when I feel that that house could be my house and that, because of what I’ve absorbed from the clients, it could also be their house, will I present it. Sometimes it’s funny how, with such simple projects, such small houses, it takes me a long time before I feel the click and, on the other hand, suddenly, with huge houses, I sit down and... [I shouldn’t say what I'm going to say (he laughs)] I do the project in one afternoon. Actually, I didn’t do it in one afternoon, maybe I was thinking about it since the day when I had the first meeting with the client, and that house overtook all the others, because, on that day, there was a click. So, the desire is to get out of the rest and enter that moment. And it’s funny, because sometimes people say: "You’ve only just got the invitation for this project and it’s already done...!”. That’s the art of anyone who creates. I think those who come to me know how I work. And I don’t like to abandon my projects, I like to carry them through to the end. I only live with the works; I can’t not go there every day. My friends are the foremen, the engineers and all the staff who work on the site. That is my life. That’s what I’m most passionate about. In the evening, I go to the gym, ‘switch off’ and, after dinner, I switch on again, late into the night.  

Doing architecture forces you to travel a lot, to get to know other places, other cultures, other realities. What do you absorb from those moments?
When I travel and go out, whether for work or pleasure, I only like to go to nice places, because for me to leave my rhythm, my place, I have to go where I can absorb new things, which will provide me with something extra. I try to go to places where I can visit spaces and where I can absorb ideas that go with the level I’m at right now, as well as the style and the type of clients I have. Those are my travels, so the memories can only be good ones. I try to travel to places that I can recommend to the clients as well. When I want to transmit an idea to the client, especially when that client has a certain style, concept, and so that I can easily fit it into my idea, I send him to visit a hotel, a space, that has everything to do with him. The client goes there, absorbs it and often almost wants us to copy the hotel for the concept of their home (he laughs). Then we work on the idea, but we try to create something that we know the client will like. It has happened to me several times. This forces me to travel.

Did you ever imagine the leap that your life has taken when it comes to architecture?
I know that a lot of the invitations have come because I’m working with Cristiano Ronaldo at the moment. I’m doing his house, but I don’t like that label. All I have achieved hasn’t  only to do with the work I have done with him over these four years. I’ve already done some things with him, it’s true, from the Castilho apartment in Lisbon, with its famous sunroom; to the house in Cascais and the one in Turin. But, before there was Cristiano, Vítor was already there and Vítor has always been like that. He was already making incredible houses and already had projects to develop on site. I am grateful to him for everything that has come up and the conveniences, because, as we know, he is the figure that he is, but, for me, that isn’t, in fact, the main thing. I have learned to control my ego and that’s another thing I’m very grateful to him for, because working on the ego is perhaps the most difficult thing in life and he is the greatest example of someone who can do it. I was forced to control mine, I switched off from that explosion of the name, sometimes I even forget that I’m working for Cristiano Ronaldo.

We dream of stunning houses, big, good areas, garden, design. In your opinion, what importance do houses have in people’s lives today?

90% of my houses have a programme. I usually say it’s the dream programme, for the families that achieve their dream and their goal in life, to get to that point, to build a house with everything, that gives them quality of life. It gives me a lot of pleasure to do those styles of houses. If we talk in terms of areas, I think the most comfortable house is a house with 300 sqm at the most. In fact, I can’t even understand how people manage to live in such big houses. But when the houses have lots of light, lots of life, and are very transparent with nature, it’s amazing. I have a house, it was my first big house, which is in Penha Longa, and it is an incredible project. The house has glass on one side, rock on the other, garden on the other, you even forget that you’re inside a house that is two thousand and something square metres large. 

 "I know that a lot of the invitations have come about because I’m working with Cristiano Ronaldo at the moment”
Most of your projects are centred in one area of Portugal. 
At the moment my focus is in the Cascais area, where most of my projects are. That’s where I have committed to living five days a week. I also have projects in the Algarve, in the North, in the Douro valley, and I accepted a challenge in Covilhã [to transform the façade of a shopping centre]. Sometimes, I accept these challenges to escape a little, to go to Portugal’s interior, which I love. 

What is the factor that you take into account most during the creative process?Storage/comfort. The spaces and environments have to be well marked out, so that the spaces are not exaggeratedly large, lost, empty areas, with a lack of storage. Houses evolve according to people’s thoughts and experiences. It’s funny to realise that nowadays one kitchen is no longer enough, there have to be two. In the old days, there was the kitchen annex and the house kitchen, which was practically unused, to keep it clean. Nowadays, there’s the chef's kitchen, the clean kitchen, the show cooking area, which is in the dining area [a new feature that everyone wants, to be able to call a chef to their home, to serve sushi, for example]. And this is evolving. It’s almost like bringing the hotel into the house. If it is possible, it’s wonderful.

This issue of TRENDS features "The chef’s kitchen” special. In light of the previous answer, it makes us wonder if nowadays an architectural project develops from the concept of the kitchen? 
Yes, many begin from there. I even have already included the chef’s kitchen in new apartments. It’s that space where the roast is prepared, the fried food, the things that leave the most smell, and where the kitchen itself has a more industrial concept. Here, materials are used that may not be as beautiful, but more resistant, just as the equipment. Then there is the other kitchen, the so-called clean kitchen, the beautiful one, which will last longer, because it isn’t used as much. I’ve learnt to value the kitchen, before I didn’t do it so much. It really is an area that has a lot of wear, so you have to be careful, and I try to show that to the client, because this is an area of the house in which you really have to invest. 

Is time your greatest friend or enemy?
Friend. I have time for everything. I go to the gym twice a day (he laughs). Because I live on my own a lot, in solitude, in my space, time lasts longer. If I had to play the role of a father every day, I wouldn’t have so much time, but I think my son will forgive me for that.

"Nowadays, there’s the chef's kitchen, the clean kitchen, the show cooking area, which is in the dining area. And this is evolving.

Until when do you see yourself doing architecture?
 I’ll tell you something, I don’t know if it will happen, but in five or six years from now let’s meet again to talk. I would like to ‘pull the plug’ one day. To be able to do things just for me, just to create. I’d like to get to that point. I know it’s very difficult to say "no”, but I’d like it to be that way. I’d like to go walking in Gerês one day, canoeing all day long, visit the houses I have designed. These years have been very intense, we have to know how to deal with many arts, many specialities, many people, with many people who get things wrong, many delays, a lot of pressure... And that’s very stressful, especially when you have 30/40 projects underway. 

What is your view of the future of architecture and namely for architects?
I have increasingly seen spectacular projects and great people doing amazing things. You see more and more definitions of styles. Not everyone is like me, who adapts, no, some pick their style and that’s it, and people go to them because they have their own language. Some because they like concrete more, others like wood more, etc. I think that in terms of architecture it’s all about improving. Nowadays, everything has rules. Apart from not being an easy profession, and you can see that right from university. You start with 12 classes in the first year, and by the last year there are only two. The other 10 drop out. Because the course is very intense. You really have to have a passion. 
Do you prefer country, beach or city houses?

Modern or rustic house?

House in light or dark shades?

House in concrete or wood?

Do you prefer the inside or the outside of the house?

Do you prefer a single-storey or multi-storey house?

Do you prefer an apartment or a house?
A house.
Maria Cruz
T. Maria Cruz
P. Nuno Almendra


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