And who would have named "SILENCE" and "SIMPLICITY" as representative of what luxury conveys? "PRIVACY," "SPACE," "RARITY," and "ENTITLEMENT" have always served as luxury's reliable pillars, but simplicity?
Around Viana do Castelo District in the Northern littoral region of Portugal.
Until now, luxury development has been designed to offer more space in more exclusive areas, with more services for greater human pleasure and a sense of personal entitlement. This prerequisite helped build resorts within fenced or guarded compounds. Luxury properties could guarantee privacy and safety for the expression of exclusive pleasures out of people's sight. In cities, airports, and live art events, the concept of VIP lounges and member-only rooms, replicated that precept. And that is still where money can make a difference. But does this still matter as much?
The opening scene of Federico Fellini's Dolce Vita , where a statue of the Christ is carried by helicopter to the Vatican in Rome, is prophetic of the future dynamic of socialites and paparazzi. In the proliferation of the lenses, being wealthy or a celebrity, meant risking permanent privacy breach.
In architecture, design, and property acquisition, changes in lifestyle are already dictating the future of housing development. From the skyscrapers emblematic of the industrial prowess of the 20th century to the deployment of 21st-century eco projects, the contrast couldn't be more extreme.
In the United Kingdom, where “UK home sales in 2023 will be lowest in a decade” according to the property website Zoopla, the British magazine on Architecture, Deezen features its ‘Deezen’s Top Five houses of August 2023’. Four of these selected houses are set in the countryside, only one is in a city –which happen to be Lisbon.
House in Rua São Francisco de Borja, Lisbon, Portugal, by Bak Gordon Arquitectos
Photo by Francisco Nogueira, featured in Deezen.
Silence and simplicity contribute to the thriving field of minimal eco-conscious architecture in natural landscapes, alike this contemporary villa complex by Correia/Ragazzi Arquitectos, that transformed a 19th-century ruin in the Northern littoral of the Viana Do Castelo district.
Viana do Castelo in Portugal, also known as the "Pearl of Minho", is a small city only in size. The natural beauty, heritage, and enchantment, it is surrounded by, calls for a visit.
Contemporary architecture on the pillars of a ruin in Melgaço, Viana do Castelo District, Northern Portugal. Photography by Juan Rodriguez for TheSpaces.
The shift in lifestyle is significant enough to evoke the major transition in America, when people began leaving downtown urban areas for the suburbs in the late 1950s.
That is not to say that skyscrapers, the magnetic landmarks of Occidental and Asian powers, have disappeared. But they have changed geography. Follow the superstar architects such as British Norman Foster and French Jean Nouvel, and find them at the door of the desert, where their elongated towers are rising from the sand or their cities hiding underneath the sand. In the Middle East, architecture is playing out on a grand scale with renewed creative stamina and glamorous budgets, for cultural flagships to replace the black gold.
Elsewhere, and that's certainly true in the Alentejo region and the Silver Coast, artists, architects, surfers, retirees, and anyone with the option of working remote, everyone is currently seeking properties in nature. The challenge of how to live, create, and produce in plain fields and small towns, is where the thrill and the adventure are!
“The view goes far, far away. You can see the edge of the empty land. That's the luxury of my life here." –Ai Weiwei, Chinese contemporary artist [walking in the Alentejo].
@aiww in the article, courtesy CondeNast Traveller, "Artist Ai Weiwei on Finding Home in Portugal’s Countryside".
“True luxury is being able to own your time - to be able to take a walk, sit on your porch, read the paper, not take the call, not be compelled by obligation.” – Ashton Kutcher, American actor.
One expects this comment to be made by someone who's 75. Who's the Millennial who still reads paper anyway? But that might be the paradox. While Baby Boomers are recklessly running for the US presidency at 75+, Millennials are escaping the chess to slow down the game, and Gen. Zs won't bother listen to any broken record like 'climbing the ladder,' or other recipe for success; and ultimately disaster.
The advent of the internet, the proliferation of individualistic screens, social media set to addictively infiltrate the human brain's ecosystem, and extract human creative resources, have all converged to generate an abyssal fatigue and the fantasy of disconnection just twenty-five years after the tech mirage:
Exit –> the hyper consumption of goods cluttering dressing rooms
Exit –> the saturated clusters of urban architecture from the subway to the high street
Exit –> the insecurity of countries where radical inequality is deepening... .
Silence, simplicity, and safety are values calling for II [pause]. In the uncertain future of a massive climate crisis, in the digital cacophony, and the resurgence of divisive antagonisms, humankind might instead finally embrace its vulnerability –for a change.
And suddenly Portugal with its low-key welcoming manners and unspoiled masterland of simple life is at the center of dinner conversations in São Paulo, London, Lausanne, Amsterdam, New York, Paris, and even in 29 Palms in the Californian deserts.
By default or by choice, Portugal stands for a value system where less is more, where nature deserves reverence, where local communities still live together, and that seems to be what everyone wants these days.
The question is: who will make it in the fastest? In other words, who has the highest purchasing power in Portugal?
An Idealista study rephrased by TPN, on the 29th of August, brings us the facts:
Most requests for mortgage loans to buy a house in Portugal come from the United Kingdom (19% of total requests), Brazil (13%), Switzerland (10%), and France (9%), according to an Idealista study. And the number of requests is mostly coming from Europe. But it is families coming from the US who have greater purchasing power and want to buy more expensive homes in the country.
Those who live on the other side of the Atlantic have an average income of €8,208 and consider purchasing homes in Portugal, on average, for €297,320. They also submit higher-value home loan applications: over €200,000.
Second are families residing in the Netherlands with an average monthly income of €6,114, seeking houses around €236,011, and requesting a mortgage of €183,576.
Third are non-resident citizens from Switzerland, who are interested in purchasing homes for €214,035, asking banks, on average, €153,481.
From our blog In Portugal: Live Healthier, Live Longer
There is another elephant in the room that might be an indicator of the forward-thinking movement towards life in Portugal and investments in Southern Europe: The Graying of America: More Older Adults Than Kids by 2035. Source: New York Times.
"The recent decline in Americans' life expectancy over the past few years is especially alarming. It reflects deaths from Covid and drug overdoses, as well as higher mortality rates among children and teenagers from violence and accidental deaths, but that does not change the underlying demographic shift. By 2053, more than 40 percent of the federal budget will go toward programs for seniors, primarily Social Security and Medicare — but those programs are not designed for or prepared to handle the new demographic reality."
To capture the trend of what is a movement, here are fifteen pioneering artists, actors, and athletes who chose Portugal, ranked by age 38 to 74:
Scarlett Johansson, American actress, 38, bought in Principe Real, Lisbon.
Noah Lennox, American singer [Panda Bear], 45, lives in Lisbon since 2004.
Ronan Keating, Irish singer, 46, lives in Nazaré on the Silver Coast.
Michael Fassbender, Irish-German actor, 46, invested in Alfama, Lisbon.
Nicole Kidman, American-Australian actress, 56, bought in Parque das Nações, Lisbon.
Garrett McNamara, American surfer, 56, lives in Nazaré on the Silver Coast.
Monica Bellucci, Italian actress, 58, invested in Alfama, Lisbon, in 2016.
Christian Louboutin, French designer, 60, is one of the catalysts in Comporta-Melides.
George Clooney, American actor, 62, bought land at the Costa Terra Golf & Ocean Club.
Sharon Stone, American actress, 65, is building a house in Comporta-Melides.
Madonna, Italian-American singer celebrated her 65th in Alfama, Lisbon. Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist, 66, lives in Montemor-o-Novo in Alentejo.
John Malkovich, American actor, 69, is a business investor in Lisbon.
Bonnie Tyler, Welsh singer, 72, lives in Albufeira, Algarve, since 1988.
Philippe Stark, French designer, 74, invested in Cascais in 2019.
In Portugal, two generations lead the game. The Millennials who are surfing the highest waves of the Silver Coast and Costa da Caparica. And Generation X who does what it does best: getting together and play the naughty teens adamant to design their own version of the senior odyssey –with style, wit and agency.
Website page of Costa Terra Club in Comporta
Finally, is there a cautionary tale in this trend for simplicity?
Yes. The semantic risk for 'simplicity' to be stripped of its meaning. If luxury marketing overuses the term without its learnings, the result will be nothing more than Facebook hijacking 'friendship', to build a free production of creative content, ultimately manufacturing friendship into datasets for the sake of a radical corporation, and its insatiable thirst for domination.
What Burning Man in the Nevada Desert and its paralyzing mud taught us the past week, is that the act of sharing and supporting one another, the act of being together and quietly collected, or the act of patience for the greater good, might be what needed to prevail in these strange days of climate riff, and eventually what needs to perdure in everyone's every day.
Burning Man, 2023, in the American Nevada Desert.
Burning Man, 2023, in the American Nevada Desert.