VAULTED SOUTH - Vernacular vaulted houses in the South of Portugal


Code   .  FCT EXPL/ART-DAQ/0171/2021

Start   .   2022
Duration   .   18 month
Principal Investigator   .   Mafalda Batista Pacheco (CHAM)






Funding Entity

Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia


Research Unit

CHAM — Centro de Humanidades

Instituto de História da Arte (IHA)


Coordenator Instituition

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa



Vernacular houses in southern Portugal present specific features resulting from its adaptation to culture, territory, and Mediterranean climate. The vaulted terrace (“açoteia”) is a constructive roof system currently used in these houses combining knowledge of classical
techniques with local traditions. Commonly, the vaulted houses are considered a wise constructive process once dismissing the use of wood and, sometimes, a formwork too, and a bioclimatic construction example, due to its good thermal performance inside the house. Although its aesthetics appeal aroused the interest of researchers being reported in national architecture surveys and travel guides published during the 20 th century, its geographic distribution, architectural and constructive characterization, typologies, thermal benefits, and
builders remains understudied. This project aims to fill the gap of studies on vernacular vaulted houses and construction processes, consisting of the first interdisciplinary and digital approach to this cluster of houses.

Based on the study of architectural treatises and manuals, measurement surveys and thermographic non-intrusive inspection techniques to the buildings, this project explores the possibilities of Digital Humanities applied to the History of Architecture. A corpus of knowledge is created and curated, composed of different kinds of information (such as diagrams, networks, technical drawings, measures, materials, typologies, inter alia) allocated in a digital and georeferenced platform to be disclosed in online and open-source format, resulting from the crossing of traditional methodologies with Digital Humanities and Digital Architecture. Assembled data at the platform is analysed in a historical, architectural and statistical interconnected perspective generating new ways to understand heritage vernacular architecture.




- To compile and study treatises and construction manuals of vaults’ systems currently used in Portugal by builders between 16 th and 19 th centuries, its authors, contents, contexts and sources;
- To study and survey vernacular vaulted houses in southern Portugal: regions of Évora, Beja and east side of Guadiana river, in inner Alentejo, and central and leeward region of Algarve (already partially studied by elements of the team), according its context and layouts’ typologies;
- To identify and study influential buildings in the surroundings of vernacular vaulted houses that may have served as source of knowledge;
- To feature vaults geometries, assemblage systems and used materials;
- To create a corpus based on the published constructive knowledge, vernacular houses and vaults typologies, geographical distribution, builders and users;
- To curate the corpus in an open-source online platform, georeferenced,3d visualized with data parameterized and stored, developed by crossing Digital Humanities and


Digital Architecture concepts and tools.


The research team is composed of academic experts of different scientific areas such as Architecture, History of Architecture, History of Art and Civil Engineering, connects two universities, the FCSH – NOVA University and IST – University of Lisbon, and four research centres, CHAM, IHA, CiTUA and CERIS. To advise in the development of the research proposal, the team counts with the support of two Spanish consultants. The project has the Library of Nacional Palace of Mafra and the National Library of Portugal as institutional partners. Vaulted South contributes to understand the boundaries between classical architecture and vernacular dwellings and the paths of knowledge transmission, to preserve this unknown heritage that is currently in danger of adulteration, destruction, and disappearance, and to advise rehabilitation projects and campaigns, patrimonial actions and procedures, touristic routes and to inspire contemporary projects.









Mafalda Batista Pacheco   .   Coordenator  

Margarida Tavares da Conceição (IHA |NOVA FCSH)    .    Co-Coodenator



João Vieira Caldas (CITUA |IST – UL)

António Sousa Gago (CERIS|IST – UL)

Ana Paula Falcão (CERIS|IST-UL)

Maria da Glória Gomes (CERIS|IST-UL)

Sandra MG Pinto (CHAM)

Raquel Seixas (IHA |NOVA FCSH)



Manuel Fortea Luna (Universidad de Extremadura)

Nuria Rodriguez Ortega (Universidad de Malaga)


Research fellow

Teresa Marques