Designing in the Golden Triangle: meet JSH Algarve

We speak to Jutta Hoehn, the founder of residential architecture studio JSH Algarve, about sustainability, technology, and her latest design projects.

Based in Portugal, within the Golden Triangle of the Algarve, JSH Algarve is an innovative architectural studio led by one of Europe’s leading female architects, Jutta Hoehn. The studio prides itself on seamlessly combining green architecture with glamour and sophistication, with its projects ranging from creating new, hi-tech constructions to renovating properties with traditional building methods and local materials.

Hoehn used her years of experience designing luxury properties in the Algarve to create a glowing reputation for JSH Algarve, which is now known for its high quality architectural services and ability to create homes that are considerate of the surrounding natural environment. We spoke to Hoehn to find out more about what inspires her, why sustainability is so important, and for a sneak peek into JSH Algarve’s latest projects.  

Were you always interested in architecture and design?

Yes, absolutely. I grew up in the beautiful spa town of Wiesbaden, which is famed for its beauty and architecture and where my family still produce some of the best Riesling in Germany. I believe it was this exposure to the buildings of Wiesbaden which ignited an early passion for design and architecture.

How did you get into the luxury market? 

In 1999, I lead the re-design of what would become one of the Algarve’s first 5-star hotels. During my time in Portugal, I developed a deep love of the country and was inspired by its landscape and architecture. I chose to settle in Portugal and founded JSH Algarve twenty years ago.

Tell us about the studio?

We specialise in developing bespoke, luxury private homes, located predominately in the “Golden Triangle” which includes Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo. We also work with a wide range of clients from the U.K, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and the USA. We work on both interior and exterior architecture, new builds, renovations and re-modelling.

We develop homes that reflect the individual ideas and wishes of the client in order to create something truly special. The team removes the added stress of paper work and architectural legal requirements, leaving clients to enjoy the experience of watching their dream home become a reality. My team is made up of eight architects, two engineers, and my beloved PA Fernanda, most of whom are Portuguese and are just an amazingly creative, young and innovative crowd to work alongside.

What inspires your designs?

My surroundings often play a role in my designs. Living so close to the ocean has frequently inspired nautical themes in terms of the interiors for some of my recent projects. Last year I transformed two old fishing houses in Salema into beachfront homes. The interiors were bright and airy, in keeping with the seaside setting. I also love using colourful Portuguese tiles, which I have used on feature wall in the bathrooms of some of my projects.

What excites you about residential design?

I love the way that you can work alongside a client to help bring their dream home to life. The design process begins with a conversation where we discuss ideas, tastes and preferences, which we then transform into drawings and CADS in order to shape their vision. It is this journey that excites me, from the initial idea to the tangible end result of building a dream home.

Do you work on both the interiors and the architecture of your projects?

Yes – we specialise in both interior and exterior architecture. I would say the overall style is a blend of contemporary and traditional touches. For example, I often use authentic Portuguese tiles within my properties. I worked on a project last year where the design focus was very modern and minimalist, however we imported a large antique golden door from Morocco, which stood as a unique focal point of the home. It is often a collaborative process whereby my clients and I work together to bring to life their vision – so whilst I have my signature style, it often varies to suit the client’s ideas as well.

What is the most challenging aspect of repurposing buildings?

Negotiating and transforming small spaces can prove difficult. Areas have to be carefully considered as there is no room for clutter. It is also extremely important not to overthink when organising the flow of the house; there simply isn’t room for the usual logical planning in smaller spaces.

Tell us about some of your latest projects?

I briefly mentioned the old fishing huts in Salema, one of which I recently renovated into a two-storey home with one bedroom. It has bright interiors and a nautical theme throughout the 20 sqm of living space (40 sqm in total). This still sits within a row of traditional fishing huts with a façade in keeping with surroundings and is located just a mere 50 metres from the beach. The property boasts a small roof terrace with statement wooden beams running above your head and views out to sea.

How important is sustainability/eco-awareness for your designs?

As an architecture studio, we are always looking for ways to minimise our environmental impact. The design approach always considers energy saving solutions, local materials when possible, and water saving solutions, as well as sustainable and recyclable materials. Previously we worked on a large contemporary villa where the design incorporated eco-awareness without compromising the overall look of the property. For this project, we concealed all the solar panels and additional equipment so that the home operates using renewable energy without obvious generators and solar panelling.

Currently we're working on an 800 m2 contemporary property with zero energy emissions that includes a bio-solar roof, cork thermal isolation and stag ventilation, which is all completely hidden. In general, all our projects – big or small – have different variations of energy saving solutions. We often use solar power and air exchange heat pumps, cork insulation for the floors, walls and ceilings, as well as using local materials where possible to reduce our carbon footprint.

What are your thoughts on technology in design?

We currently use the ground-breaking computer software Lumion, which allows clients to visualise their dream home prior to it being built and gain an insight into the future aesthetic of their state-of-the-art home. We feel this is a brilliant technological advancement whereby we can import a design model to instantly bring the project to life with realistic landscapes and urban context. Oculus Go Goggles are then used to transport clients into this 3-dimensional fictional world, where attention to detail extends to weather and sunlight to create a truly immersive experience.

What’s next for JSH Algarve?

We’re working on a development which is currently in project phase, turning a set of empty garage buildings and an old petrol station into five beautifully concealed loft-type town houses. The homes have been designed to be hidden behind the original outer façade, in order to maintain the aesthetic of the street and create a discreet, understated level of luxury. We will begin building work on this development in the summer.

We have also started working on the design of a small luxury boutique building (with 20 rooms) in the historic centre of a beautiful local town and are finishing a very contemporary villa with five swimming pools. Furthermore, we have 11 contemporary villas under construction, all of which will be completed within the next 3-12 months. An additional four projects will begin in September.

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