Architect Vasco Vieria on maximizing indoor and outdoor living

If there is an architect of the modern dream house, it is Vasco Vieira. The South African architect, based in Portugal, creates homes that look like a modern take on an upscale Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired dream home.

“Throughout my career, I have always sought to convert inaccessible dreams into constructed realities,” Mr. Vieira said.

Since founding his own practice, Vasco Vieira Arquitectos, in 2003, he has worked on luxury residential projects on almost every continent in the world, from Brazil to Germany and Japan, and has received numerous awards for his creations.

His latest project is Akai Estates, a collection of 16 luxury homes in Southwest Ranches, Florida, with prices starting at $7.5 million. Akai’s modern, minimal designs combine tropical ease with country privacy, while being easily accessible to Miami and Fort Lauderdale (there’s even a heliport on-site).

He spoke to Mansion Global about his favorite designers, his influences and the design quote that inspires him.

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Mansion Global: You seem to be an expert in designing the ultimate luxury villa. What is your approach?

Vasco Viera: When it comes to our project, our clientele, we focus on high-end properties. I seek to maximize indoor and outdoor living. The main thing is to go to the location, understand it and orient it, we are pioneers of contemporary architecture in the Algarve. I am into connectedness, inner-outer life.

MG: Is your architecture influenced by Portuguese design?

VV: It has both South African and Portuguese influences, South African minimalism, but Portuguese simplicity and minimalism. Typical Portuguese architecture is about building forms and incorporating functional aspects into them. I’m a fan of creating the functional aspects of a building and then making the architecture work with that. Form follows function.

MG: What was your approach to your first project in the United States, Akai Estates?

VV: When I first visited Miami I felt it was contemporary, but I felt there was a lack of understanding of quality contemporary architecture. I felt we could add more quality, refined design. Also, more quality than the actual build. The build quality was not there. In Portugal, the design is good but so are the finishes.

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MG: What are some of the growing demands or trends you’ve seen among luxury home buyers?

VV: Basically, people are more and more concerned about the environment and green issues. People want good sun exposure, sun protection and we adapt the design to the climate. The other thing, ever since the pandemic hit, people are more inclined to [want] private places rather than high-rise buildings. It used to be penthouses, but now there’s been a move to an upscale villa that almost feels like a small hotel, like a private oasis. If you look at some of the villas we do, they have all the same amenities as a hotel: swimming pool, gym, spa, cinema. The houses are made so that you don’t have to go out.

MG: It almost feels like the life of a five-star hotel has been intertwined with luxury houses.

VV: Exactly. During and after the pandemic, people have come to appreciate this lifestyle where you have your own private oasis, your own peace and quiet. Not a rushed lifestyle. They work from home and go away on weekends. So it’s the opposite of before, whereas before it was in rural houses on weekends, there has been a change.

MG: Which ecological material is the most popular in architecture today?

VV: Go local, use local materials. Try to maximize local materials. In Portugal, we designed the first eco-hotel, which won several awards. The stone is all local stone. Heating and cooling systems are also very particular, attention must be paid to how a building consumes energy. But the most important thing is to try to use local materials, local labor to make it eco-friendly as well.

MG: Are you a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright? That’s what I see in your villas.

VV: Yes, you hit the nail on the head. My biggest inspiration was Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe and Le Corbusier. They were the pioneers of modernism. I always liked Wright how he adapted the houses to the terrain. This is how the house reflects the owners.

MG: What is your personal definition of luxury?

VV: People are finally starting to understand what real luxury is, it’s what people used to take for granted. The simple things in life. Have a moment to have fun. A home-cooked meal has now become the new luxury. It’s not the showy, golden things. If we use natural materials, it’s luxury. These are not synthetics.

MG: Is there a design quote that you live by?

VV: Mies Van Der Rohe said, “Less is more.”

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MG: How do you stay inspired?

VV: Travel is important, we do projects globally, I have done projects on every continent except Australia. Every experience teaches you something new. Dealing with different cultures. I have just finished houses in Brazil, Dubai, Germany, Holland and Africa. Each house design teaches me about the house and how it is understood in different cultures.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.