White leather curtains enclose Lisbon wellness centre by AB+AC Architects


Portuguese practice AB+AC Architects has designed a multifunctional wellness centre in Lisbon that doubles up as an artists’ residence.

The Open Hearts wellness centre is arranged around one large room, which AB+AC Architects refers to as the shala. This Sanskrit term refers to the idea of home but also, in the context of yoga, a place where people can learn and practise together.

Curtained interior of Open Hearts Lisboa
The Open Hearts centre is orientated around a curtained room known as the shala

As well as yoga classes, this adaptable space will host everything from breathwork classes and sound baths to meditation sessions, film screenings, dining experiences and creative writing workshops.

Running around the periphery of the shala are floor-to-ceiling curtains crafted from white vegan leather, which can be drawn to keep the room out of view from the bustling street outdoors.

At the front of the room, a wall of gold-tinted mirrors conceals a series of storage compartments. When an event is being held, the room can also be temporarily dressed with floor cushions and long birchwood tables.

Interior of Open Hearts Lisboa
Behind the shala is the artists’ residence

“Normally, when a design is very flexible, there is a risk of ending up with a very generic or sterile space, as if the only way to address adaptability is through non-specific design,” explained AB+AC Architects.

“We knew that creating a neutral mood that could accommodate a variety of programs would not be stimulating, so we decided that the centre had to be able to evoke different emotions based on the function occurring at that given moment.”

Wooden kitchen inside Open Heart Lisboa's artist residence
This includes a dining room and bespoke kitchen

A grand limestone archway to the side of the shala grants access to the artists’ residence, which is entered via a narrow lounge area.

The room is topped with a light-up ceiling that measures eight metres long and, when the artist is hosting an exhibition, washes their work in a complementary glow.

Next up is a small dining area and a custom-made kitchen suite featuring wooden cabinetry and a terrazzo-style countertop.

Surfaces in the adjacent bedroom are painted a crisp shade of white while the corner dedicated to the bathroom – complete with a freestanding tub – is clad in distinctive terracotta tiles.

The same gold-tinged mirrors from the shala are used here to help disguise the toilet.

Tiled bathroom inside Open Heart Lisboa's artist residence
A terracotta-tiled bathroom contrasts with the white walls of the bedroom

Should the resident artist want some fresh air, they can head outside to the small private patio.

Here, a concrete planter that winds around the edge of the space is overspilling with leafy tropical plants, while volcanic stone pebbles are scattered over the floor.

Outdoor patio of Open Heart Lisboa's artist residence
Foliage lines the private outdoor patio of the artists’ residence

Open Hearts Lisbon has been shortlisted in the civic and cultural interior category of this year’s Dezeen Awards.

Other projects in the running include a cow shed-turned-library, a historic cinema in Berlin and the world’s first multi-storey skatepark.

The photography is by Ricardo Oliveira Alves.


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