Discover Melides Art: Where Nature & Art Meet and Creativity Flourishes

melides art residence architecture in nature portugal alentejo

If there ever was a time for collective and individual creativity to flourish, it’s now. “Creativity is what produces forward-reaching vision and lays the groundwork for the future to make it more virtuous, equitable, and eco-responsible,” writes leading trend forecaster Nelli Rodi. We need creativity. We desire creativity. Creativity leads to innovation, the voice that remains long after our bodies leave this earth. So how about a mental and physical space that is all about fostering creativity? A residential community, travelers’ destination, and open network where the symbiotic relationship between art and nature, lifestyle, culture, and creativity is the basis of existence. Come discover the beauty and allure of Melides Art with founder Miguel Carvalho!


“The symbiotic relationship between art and nature, lifestyle, culture, and creativity is the basis of our existence at Melides Art.”


Melides – Miguel Carvalho – Art

Set on the beautiful Alentejo coastal region of Portugal, just under an hour and a half south of Lisbon in a small seaside town called Melides. Nestled in a prestigious countryside 3 km from over 40 km of pristine beaches. Surrounded by unspoiled nature from the sea across hundreds of kilometers of cork oak fields, vineyards, and rice fields. There sits Melides Art. Miguel Carvalho’s creativity at work!

A residence at Melides Art designed by Esteva i Esteva - masterplan by Miguel Cavhalo
A residence at Melides Art designed by Esteva i Esteva

The charm of Melides’ historical villages and unspoiled nature sets it apart from its neighbor, the more commercially developed Comporta. A long-time family vacation destination, the community in Melides, both permanent and vacationer, has a love for the area that has maintained its authenticity and serenity. Like all good things Melides has been discovered, but this does not mean it will be spoiled. A fact clearly seen in the careful development of Melides Art, and other new places being built in the area.

Both Miguel Carvalho and early community member Esmeralda Swartz are some of those long-time visitors to Melides. Miguel found Melides a very unique area for many reasons, however as he explains while reminiscing on the birth of the Melides Art concept—”I enjoyed the area tremendously, the beaches, the nature, authenticity in its villages, closeness to Lisbon, safe environment, the weather, I felt it was great, but not enough.”

The Power of Ideas & Art

From a young age, influenced by his father and a couple of teachers, Miguel came to understand the power of ideas. Their ability to foster change. And the relationship between ideas and art. He came to appreciate art as a force for change. “Art is like the cradle of ideas, the forefront of wild thought, adventurous bold thought, discussed and bred within the field of the arts,” explains Miguel.

Miguel became involved in art institutions and realized a number of art projects around the world. This is when he began to think about what more Melides could offer. “Art institutions were suffering from the economic downturn and I thought it would be interesting to think of an institution of a new age that would function as a network institution. Where owners would benefit from a beautiful home and location, but would also become a patron of a project important to them, and would also capitalize other endeavors and projects.”


fleur nightstand koket - wood marquetry

Inside Melides Art

“Artists, curators, writers and performers, musicians, designers, and innovative thinkers share their interests and contribute for this unique lifestyle concept and bring enrichment to our vibrant communal atmosphere.”

Miguel Carvalho’s vision for Melides Art consisted of a “community that would offer services at the level of a five-star hotel with the comfort of a personal home and the tranquility and reclusiveness of a stand-alone farm, all this within the context of nature and peace.”

“Living alone is not as interesting as living in a community as long as you maintain privacy,” says Miguel. In a community, people can share services. And spaces. And creativity.

A space for social gathering and dining set in the beauty of Melides' nature is a perfect example of how the concept of community is fostered at Melides Art
A space for social gathering and dining set in the beauty of Melides’ nature is a perfect example of how the concept of community is fostered at Melides Art

The Design

Once the master plan was solidified, Miguel and his team began the process of designing the homes to function as modern-day studios. A home is also a studio, a public event venue, a gallery, and so on—”gathering places for creativity.”

To bring his vision to life Miguel hired the celebrated Spanish architecture firm Esteva i Esteva. Known for their interesting design approach which always blends with the landscape. Color, shape, placement, all playing a role in the final design. “Tony is an artist. He looks at the most schematic details. How does the light process through the house through the year? What sounds do you hear? Every minute element of the house and relation to the environment is thought through harmonically”. Esteva i Esteva’s desire to look at architecture from a humanistic point of view also attracted Miguel. “The occupants are at the center of the program. The people inform the look of the space. The space serves the people who live in and use it.”

The final result: Minimal, yet simultaneously large and ambitious, residences called studios nestled into the natural surroundings. “Almost invisible sandcastles, as if they could be there one day and gone the next with the wind. Large ambitious structures born from the land placed on,” says Miguel.

melides art residence designed by esteva i esteva envisioned by miguel cavhalo in alentejo portugal architecture that blends with nature

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The Amenities

Adjacent to the studios, art pavilions, and ateliers sits a hotel created to further enhance the community’s amenities. This area consists of 14 residential Pavilions, a Spa, a Clubhouse, and varied Sports Facilities. The hotel ensures modern services, amenities, and experiences of exceptional quality to the whole community, a major added bonus.

The Bungalows at Melides Art
The Bungalows at Melides Art

Art & Creation at Melides Art

In line with Miguel Carvalho’s passion for fostering creativity, when planning Melides Art, he designed spaces to create art, alongside spaces for the exhibition of art.

From shooting to showing films, creating poetry, choreographing and performing dance, or meeting and dreaming together, each studio also boasts a creative function beyond its role as a home.

Portuguese musician Rão Kyao performing in a residence at Melides Art
Portuguese musician Rão Kyao performing in a residence at Melides Art

One artist who visited Melides Art explained the feeling of being there as walking into a lullaby. A visual and acoustic reduction. A silence that allowed him to focus on his creative effort. “That is a beautiful way to put what the architects have achieved,” says Miguel. “They really created this architectural lullaby which is a platform for art and creation and presentation. And for other people to come in contact with that. Either with the art or the process of creation.”

In addition to studios functioning as places for creativity and exhibition, Melides Art also offers Art Pavilions for community members to use for creation and exhibition.

An Art Pavilion at Melides Art
The Art Pavilion at Melides Art

The Art Park

Helping artists create monumental public works of art is one of Miguel Carvalho’s passions. So of course Melides Art needed public art installations. 

To head up art curation, Miguel hired Marc Olivier Wahler. Founder and current director of Chalet Society, Paris. Before that, Marc spent six years as the director of Palais de Tokyo, Paris, one of the most frequently visited contemporary art centers in Europe. He is also the former director of Swiss Institute, New York; founding director of Can, Neuchâtel; and founding editor of Palais/ Magazine.

Marc Olivier Wahler is known for creating museums with strong identities and exhibition programs that encourage dialogues between artists of different generations and also break down barriers between high and low culture and different artistic mediums (such as architecture, fine arts, dance, literature, theater, and music)—Marc is perfectly aligned with the visions of Melides Art making him an ideal curator, to say the least!

Currently, the Art Park features three projects: (L) Marine Weber’s The Autumn Bear, (C) Robert Melee’s Colorful Monsters, and (R) Olaf Breuning’s The Humans.

Owning a Home at Melides Art

When Miguel Carvalho imagined the ideal Melides Art member, families like Esmeralda Swartz were exactly what he imagined. 

Born in Portugal, Esmeralda always maintained strong ties to her Portuguese roots while growing up in the US. Ties that included many childhood summer vacations to the majestic Alentejo region.

“Just like so many people, we were attracted to the solitude and unspoiled nature that is so hard to find these days,” says Esmeralda of Melides.

The allure of Alentejo and community living, along with Esmeralda’s strong ties to Portugal and passion for art all played key roles in her decision to build her family’s next vacation home at Melides Art.

“I wanted my teenage children to build their own roots that would connect them to Portugal. There is a word in the Portuguese language, saudade. There is no direct translation in the English language, the closest word is nostalgia. Being here satisfies my ‘saudade’ for Portugal and gives me a place to get away from my normal hectic life. It is also a place where family and friends from around the world can come to reflect and recharge.”

And when it comes to art, Esmeralda is an active patron and philanthropist. A passion she explains stems from her love for the ability of art to push “the human spirit forward by making you see things differently and sometimes taking you out of your comfort zone.”



Projects

Part of the process of buying a home in Melides Art is coming with a proposal for a creative project that will take place there and be open to the community. For Esmeralda’s family, it was about film.

“We have always been active in cultural institutions and projects wherever we have lived. Our family started a documentary film company focused on using film to impact social change. After we slowed down in our high-tech careers, my husband and I became more active in documentary films as investors and producers. At Melides Art we built an outdoor amphitheater at our home where we screen films we are involved with personally as well ones we think have a powerful story to tell. By bringing these films and filmmakers to lead discussions, something magical always happens.”

An outdoor film night at Melides Art
An outdoor film night at Melides Art

Other Projects

In addition to onsite life, creativity, and performance, Melides Art is always looking for new ways to foster creativity throughout its liquid network —”a deeply creative network” conceived by thinker Steve Johnson, “where ideas can be mixed, feed off, and complete each other and give birth to new concepts, new works, and new visions. This produces a stimulating ecosystem where different creators and thinkers all contribute to a common goal.”

And from their own Vimeo channel offering inspiring videos for those off-site, to the recently launched Melides Art Records, and projects like Sol Posto, Melides Art is fostering away!

Melides Art Records

Catapulted by COVID-19 lockdowns, Miguel Carvalho recently launched Melides Art Records into the Melides Art eco-system. “Music may very well be the most universal of arts. It is a language with a broad reach that allows for each of us to relate to it on multiple levels – aesthetic, technical, emotional, cultural, and intellectual. Music makes us think. It makes us dance, laugh and cry. It is the soundtrack to revolutions. Music has incredible power and in the present, where technology has made it ever more accessible, and consequently more universal, music is a precious commodity,” says the founder.

Miguel wanted a record label eventually, but 2020 lockdowns made it clear it was the right time. So MAR was born. Launched from “a genuine will to foster and mix ideas, of transforming these ideas into music and of sending that music out into the world.”

Sol Posto – A Film Concert by Captain Fausto

Another COVID-19 inspired project is Sol Posto – A Film Concert by Captain Fausto. A movie released in November 2020 at select theaters in Portugal. Through three performances by the band Sol Posto, recorded live and exclusively for the film, a concert becomes a movie.

Captivated by Melides Art

With around half the 32 planned studios built and new inspiring projects continually growing, Melides Art is well on its way to living as envisioned, and beyond.

Early members of the community like Esmeralda knew there was something special at Melides Art and love the way it is growing. “As more have come into the community it has been reassuring to see that although we come from different countries, have different backgrounds and professions, we share a common desire to preserve and enrich what has been created here for ourselves and our children. It is also gratifying to see our children build their own connections and roots in this community.”

“As more people discover this wild part of the Alentejo in search of isolation, preservation of nature and connection to community, it is important to be surrounded by like-minded individuals,” adds Esmeralda. “This area is continuing to evolve and it is becoming the place where experimentation and innovation in architecture, art, and music is happening. The many cultural firsts that have happened here and continue to happen is energizing. But, just as important is the sense of responsibility to preserve the wild beauty of the area for future generations.”

And what about beyond Melides Art Portugal? Miguel says, yes, he absolutely plans for locations like this in other parts of the world.

Cheers to nature and art meeting and the flourishing of individual and collective creativity!

By Anna Beck Bimba

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