Door of house 6
A Door of house 6.

CalmosCaldeira do Mosteiro, or simply Caldeira, is a village in the parish of Mosteiro, in the Lajes das Flores municipality of the island of Flores, Azores, Portugal. It is composed of about 10 houses and a few barns. Caldeira is located inside a volcanic crater known locally by the same name, Caldeira (the Portuguese for “crater” is “caldeira”, akin to the Spanish word “caldera”, used in English for collapse volcanic craters). More precisely, Caldeira is located on the outer rim of the crater, in the “baixio” (i.e., in the lower part of the formation, forming a small valley) that cuts through the crater rim to allow the Caldeira stream, strengthened by two other streams that flow through the houses of Caldeira, exits into the sea, which it reaches after going through a succession of small cascades and after passing through the small “fajã” of Lagoarda (a “fajã” is a flat surface resulting from collapsing cliffs or lava flows, usually by the sea).

View of houses 7, 8, and 11
A view of houses 7, 8, and 11 with the stream and plane trees in the middle.

Caldeira was deserted in 1992, when its last inhabitant left it. The abandonment of the village was due in part to the strong emigration of Florentines to the USA, and, apparently, also to the fact that electrical power was still not available in the village at that time. Since then the village decayed, so that today most of its building are in ruins.

To visit Caldeira is to enter a magical place, where each visitor dreams in silence. Its houses turn into the interior of the small valley, facing the stream that empties into the larger Caldeira stream. This small stream, or rather, the two small streams that merge close to the upstream houses of the “baixio”, together with the configuration of the valley and its integration into the volcanic crater, are the fundamental organization elements of the space and its views: the singing of the streams, scored by the whispering of the leaves of the trees and amplified by the shape of the valley, which isolates us from outside noises, is a constant. The “baixio” da Caldeira is one of the most densely wooded areas of the crater, with the exception of a few existing woods of the monotonous, but inevitable, Cryptomeria japonica. Planes and poplars, as well as a few native trees, for the sweet riparian sequence among and around the houses. Thus, houses and barns, streams and trees, inside their valley within the crater, form a harmonious whole, evoking feelings of calm, peace, and contemplation.

Window of house 1
A window of house 1.

To enter the Caldeira, usually after a stroll though the old tracks of the Mosteiro parish, is to enter a dream. It is that dream that we want to make true, recovering the houses and barns, and contributing to the higher quality public spaces, so that visitors may again visit a living Caldeira.

The intervention will preserve, or even reinforce, the spirit of the place, which is some regards evokes the magic of the false ruins of some 18th and 19th century English gardens (e.g., Monserrate, in Sintra, Portugal). That is, the intention is not to rebuild, but rather to consolidate the existing ruins, making then inhabitable, and adopting in an unapologetic way a totally contemporary architectural point of view.

Seen from the exterior of the houses, Caldeira, which will remain almost invisible for those passing through the local road, will have the minimalistic magic of an abandoned village, making us stop and think, and inviting us to peacefully explore the place and uncover the secrets we imagine hidden inside its houses.

Façade of house 8
The façade of house 8.

The interiors will contrast strongly with the exterior: the contemporary comfort, the light, and the warm aura of the interiors, seen through the windows, especially at dusk, will invite us to enter. The windows will thus be a boundary between two very distinct worlds, framing beautiful paintings. From the inside, the windows will paint scenes of the magical exterior. From the outside, they will be dark openings into a mysterious inside which will lighten up at dusk, painting scenes of interiors of comfort and light.

Façades of houses 7 and 11
The façades of houses 7 and 11.

Besides preserving and reinforcing the magic of the place, the project will be economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. Economic sustainability will be guaranteed by an offer that will be attractive to the medium-high and high segments of tourism, both through the magic of the place and the comfort of the accommodations, and through the availability of a diverse set of experiences of different natures (sensorial, didactic, cultural, etc.). Social sustainability will be ensured through a strong connection with the local economy, essentially of an agricultural nature, making available a diverse set of local products and experiences. Environmental sustainability, which is probably the facet of sustainability with a stronger impact in the architecture of Caldeira, will be guaranteed both during the consolidation and construction processes, which will use as much as possibly local materials and human resources, and during exploration, through a reduced environmental impact (energy savings, renewable energies, adequate treatment of solid waste and waste water, etc.).