This Zone takes in the Algarve and the Baixo Alentejo between the sea, the basin of the River Sado and Mértola. The climate in this zone is dry and consequently communities are centralised. The Limestone or «Barrocal» Algarve is more uneven than the coastal strip, and communities are scattered along the roads and in small isolated areas of non-irrigated cereal cultivation where orchards and market gardens begin to become less frequent. The use of the verandah or roof terrace («acoteia») is most common in this sub-region, the system of horizontal roofing serving as a drying area for fruit, cereals, pumpkins etc.
The mountain range or High Algarve, a southern extension of the shale covering of the Baixo Alentejo, is the sub-region of the poorest and most rudimentary economy and is also the least populated. However, in the solid Monchique range of hills the highest rainfall in the province is registered and a microclimate exists where the type of cultivation is reminiscent of the north of the country. This is an exception in the entire region, where the predominate ting climatic influence is Mediterranean which in the Algarve becomes almost sub-tropical. On the slopes of the hills of the Coastal Algarve the oak grove predominates in rural economy. Population density is low. The prevailing tendency is for dispersion and mixed farming. In the basin of the River Sado rice paddies and market gardens prevail as well as oak groves a combination of oak grove and wheat field. It is the least populated area in the sub-region and the one where the system of large properties prevails.
Here, as all over the country, there are still traces of prehistoric habitation in the cylindrical walled cabin with a conical roof. Also in Fuseta da Serra (to the north of Tavira) and in Cachopo to the north of Ribeira de Odeleite there are cylindrical stone constructions with thatched roofs. In Cachopo thatch has been replaced by cylindrical tiles. In Fuseta da Serra thatch has been retained and a rectangular animal pen added. This is closed to the south by canework. As happens elsewhere the materials for construction are directly related to the geology of the zone and these are distributed in the following manner.
Loam is used in the Baixo Alentejo and on the coast of the Algarve. Other less plentiful materials are adobe; limestone used in «Barrocal Algarve»; schist in the eastern part of the Upper Algarve and round Aljezur (west coast of the Algarve); «a foiate (volcanic stone) the region of Monchique; red sandstone in Silves. Bricks and floor tiles are used for building arched and roof terraces; when roof tiles are not cemented together they rest directly on the beams, when they are cemented they lie on a layer of trellised canes («encarnicado») Whitewash is used intensively throughout the entire southern and coastal region of the country and even covers the roofs and vaults which serve as roof terraces. Thatch is used for walls as much as for roofs and is found as much on the coast of the Alentejo and in the valley of the Sado as on the east coast of the Algarve. Given the great variety of land and climate and the different types of economy from agriculture to fishing, we cannot speak of a typical Algarve house but rather of distinct features of habitation in the Algarve.
In the Lower Algarve, where communities are scattered, the home is generally accompanied by its extensions which vary in form, number and importance depending on the type of property. It can be of the simplest composition (kitchen and small storage area) or include farms and «montes» where the home with a patio in front some times protected by a trellised vine, is joined to stables, pigs-stys, chicken runs, compost heaps, sheds or storage areas, ovens and threshing floors. Sometimes house and additions form one single building, with a separate unit made up of the oven, pig-sty and the threshing floor (Ponte de St. Estevão, Silves). At other times the entrance is through the kitchen flanked by the pig-sty and the chicken-run with dove-cote, and proceeded by the patio protec ted by trellis vines in front of the house (Quatro-Estradas, Lagos ).
Olhão and Fuseta owe their originality to the ties which their inhabitants maintained with the Magrebe coast. It is only since 1790 that houses of masonry have been built in Olhão. The plan of these houses is rectangular with interior divisions at the back with no direct ventilation, and a roof terrace formed by tiled vaults. The kitchen is composed of a simple stone support with an oven on it. The patio is a raised terrace with storage underneath it, an arrangement resulting from the type of ground surface. In other houses in Olhão the entrance gives directly into the living-room, followed by two adjoining bedrooms which are connected to a narrow corridor that leads to the kitchen which occupies the full width of the back quarters of the house. The roof is composed of barrel vaults on top of which lies the roof terrace reached by an external stairway which leads up from a walled patio attached to the house. Out of one these vaults rises the large, balloon chimney. There are also two-floored houses in Olhão with a viewing area on top. The roof terrace or «açoteia» besides being well represented in Olhão and Fuseta, is frequently found from the proximities of Porches and S. Bartolomeu de Messines to round about Tavira. On the sandy coast (Beaches of Faro and Monte Gordo, the banks of the lake of St. Andre) and in the valley of the Sado (Comporta) there are still poor fishermen's houses made of rushes or thatch on both the walls and roof or on the roof alone, in which case the walls are of adobe and the chimney of masonry (Aguas de Moura, the valley of the Sado).
It is on the coast of the Alentejo that the neatest buildings are found. In the Serra do Caldeirão houses are of schist masonry completely whitewashed inside and totally or partially plastered and whitewashed on the outside. This results in the linking of various units of the rectangular plan, often at different levels. The roof has usually only one flank sloping in the direction of the predominant rains. There is no chimney, since the fireplace serves as the kitchen in the winter, the smoke escaping through the tiles, and in the summer there is the outside oven, either up against the façade and near what is usually the only entrance, or not connected to the house. In front of the entrance there is a rectangular paved area which serves as the patio, shaded is the summer by trellised vines. This is completed by a stone bench which runs to the oven and which together with the covering of whitewash gives a link of conformity to all the other elements.
One the northern slopes of the Serra de Monchique maize cultivation is important and habitation consists of small, scattered, isolated pockets of population. Consequently it is understandable to find similarities with other mountainous regions in the north of the country. The stable is part of the home with interior access, stone visible on the exterior masonry, the wall only being whitewashed at the entrance. The roof has only one slope, no chimney and the oven is in the kitchen. The house has only a ground floor and is composed of a hall off which open the doors to the other rooms, the kitchen and one or two bedrooms — the only rooms with a wooden floor. The stable is reached through the grain loft or pantry which in turn opens onto the hall and, added on are the pig-sty, chicken-run and shed. In the attic formed by the slope of the roof , is a small upper floor, covering the pantry and the stable, which is used as a straw loft and adds to protection against the cold.
On the slopes of the Alentejo mountain ranges of Grândola and Cercal the plan of the home is rectangular but much longer in the north-south direction and with the entrance to the east for protection against the sea breeze which blows from the west. Room division is longitudinal. The entrance leads straight into the main room which is the living-room, dining-room and kitchen. It is completely whitewashed and has a large chimney characteristic of those of the Alentejo. The bedrooms flak the living-room cum kitchen and each one has its own window. The roof is two sided and covered in cylindrical tiles. The floors are paved with floor tiles or irregular flag stones. Additional outhouses stand up against the house in the longitudinal direction.
In the Baixo Alentejo the 28 few inhabitants live on «montes», as numerous in this zone as in Zone 5. Room planning is disorderly although defined, the main room being the kitchen where the workers have their supper at a long table. The fireplace is large and the tall chimney is either circular or polygonal in shape. Whitewash is everywhere and it is constantly renewed.
In the valley of the Sado where the land is given over to rice paddies and market gardens and is divided up into large properties, communities are consequently small and far apart. The house is built of loam and whitewashed and has generally one room where the food is cooked and eaten, and at one end there are two sleeping areas. The rooms are limited by four walls and two low and fragile wooden partitions. Outside the whole is strengthened by vast buttresses.
The richest decoration in the Algarve is seen on terrace walls and chimneys. In Olhão , Fuseta and Barroco dos Pisões (Monchique) are found the curious, balloon chimneys so well adapted to their surroundings. There are few examples of wooden lattice work on windows and small windows set in doors. However there are some in Tavira, remains of what must have been a practical solution applied liberally all over the country to answer the needs of ventilation, seclusion, protection of window panes and for decreasing the amount of light when too intense.
This text was transcribed from the English translation of Arquitectura popular em Portugal, Vol. III. published in 1988. All images were scanned from the same volume.