|Research ID||Name||Location||Date / Time|
How can architecture act in the terrain vague without becoming an aggressive instrument of power and abstract reason?1
Terrain as a place that presents itself in an expectant condition, potentially usable but adding a limit in its relation to the surroundings. Vague as lack of definition or lack of use, a condition of possibilities that allows a sense of operational freedom. This concept, theorized by Ignasi de Solà-Morales, arises from the focus given by photographers and artists on marginal and obsolete terrains that seemed empty of meaning. These interstices appear as absence and limit, and at the same time, paradoxically, as promise and expectation. They present themselves as the resolutive catalyst for the spatial intermittences caused by the major plans, contributing to the city limits’ loss. It’s not a surprise that these spaces are assumed today as structural in the analytical process that precedes the intervention of urban design.
In this way, the terrain vague concept, in a specific context, refers to any circumscribed territories, which for several reasons have been forgotten or undefined, a situation often resulting from the actions of the modern movement supported by the sharp and imposing technocracy that marked the 20th century.
In cities like Coimbra, the topography is the major circumstance of any type of intervention in the territory. It defines not only the architectural typologies but also urban collective strategies, namely the use of public space and mobility. The isolated traces from the past, based on a logic of development through the extension of the main axes, with a design that circumvents the contour lines, enhanced an altimetrically fragmented territory, creating undefined urban interstices that invoke action. The morphology and scale of this kind of places is diverse, however, the expectant character is what unifies the general problem.
The indefiniteness of the green area that is limited by the streets Nicolau Chanterene and Padre Manuel da Nóbrega, in the city of Coimbra, evokes the possibility of intervention and requalification of an expectant space full of meaning, a large Terrain Vague with almost 95.000 sqm, surrounded by a high population density, but with no use or interaction with it. Furthermore, this space offers a possibility of optimizing pedestrian mobility, searching for solutions for the problem of zigzagging paths often exclusive and ending in cul-de-sacs, creating “islands” or “peninsulas” of expectant lands.
By the end of this analysis and with the intervention of all guests, the program of an Urban Park, catalyzed by the existing waterline came up as the strategy for the entire plot. The waterline, together with the most flatted areas, became the center of the design, associating all the programs that potentially can change the current lack of use of a high-quality green space, enabling its constant use by the locals as well as all Coimbra inhabitants. It was proposed a playground and a new housing block at the east entrance, a sports court, a cafeteria, and a cold greenhouse facing an artificial lake in the most central area of the plot and an area for urban farms. Combined with a new structure of pathways (both existent and new), the open waterline and the new program can generate new living dynamics at the lower level.
Connecting the two sides, a pedestrian bridge was designed both to cross and observe the view. Finally, after analyzing the existing types of greenery, a new density of trees is suggested to create different areas along the site: a mass of trees in the most aggressive topography, along the pathways and behind the cold greenhouse for shadow, and a lower scale of greenery, with open areas along the waterline and the programs related to it. Planning the location and density of the new trees in close relation to the new volumes guided and concluded the final proposal.
|ATA/R.3||Bairro do Leal Appropriation||Porto||2021|
Bairro do Leal Appropriation
The ‘Bairro do Leal Appropriation’ workshop is part of an endeavour to raise awareness of the precarious nature of life in Porto’s urban interstices. The neighbourhood’s obsolescence and expectant character offered a starting point for reflecting on, designing and transforming a concrete place over a period of one week.
Social interaction between the team of young participants and the local residents played a key role in the architectural action. Following visits and discussions, a fenced off plot that had been abandoned for years and was once occupied by houses was identified as the intervention site. The absence of a green space for public use in the area was another reason for salvaging and improving the plot. Via a participatory process of self-building, the plot was appropriated and revitalised.
The first step was to remove the fence around the plot and to tame the wild, unkempt vegetation. This revealed the site’s physical and topographic characteristics: its slope; the concrete joists marking its outer edges; the ‘amphitheatre’ created by piles of granite rubble from the former houses; the butchered trunk of a eucalyptus tree; the leafy lemon tree; the gable of the neighbouring house; the ruins still standing and the makeshift shelters for stray cats (the site’s only ‘residents’).
In the next step, scale models and designs were produced to explore ways of appropriating the plot via small-scale actions and constructions that would foster new uses. The process was interspersed with talks by speakers with experience of participatory projects and self-building initiatives in vulnerable neighbourhoods in different contexts, and critiques with guests whose knowledge shaped our approach to the evolving project.
A series of operations with different scopes and scales was launched, based on our ongoing presence at the site. The intention was to use the entire plot to create a new ‘house’ with different ‘rooms’ suited to different functions. A small stage was built to supplement the ‘amphitheatre’, providing opportunities for small events, performances and meetings to be held. Using wooden beams on the flattest part of the plot, a structure to provide shade was built along with benches and a large table to encourage people to meet for gatherings and meals. A rest area was created in the shade of the lemon tree; shelters for cats were renovated; a former kitchen was given a new use as a support area for events, and the fence that had been removed was repositioned in the middle of the plot, symbolically evoking the trunk of the eucalyptus.
New and old elements were painted in the same colours as the adjoining houses (beige and red), lending a sense of continuity to the site and embodying the intention to extend it into Bairro do Leal and establish a dialogue with the surrounding area.
The workshop ended with a gathering with residents, neighbours and participants, which included performances, graffiti, food and an open-air cinema session. At the event, residents were invited to look after and appropriate the plot.
In subsequent weeks, neighbours created their own ‘urban furniture’, restored a concealed floor, planted a variety of plant species and laid out small stones to give a sense of belonging. Months after our intervention, the municipal gardening team regularly visits and cleans the plot. The new local dynamics are illustrative of the positive impact that small-scale actions can have in improving degraded or unused areas within the city.
|ATA/R.2||Superego Emergency||Braga, PT||2021|
The present reflection appears as a tribute to our moral unconsciousness and its consequent extraordinary elevation in a particularly difficult and unprecedented context in the temporal space of today’s humanity: the conditioning of the dynamics of life, based on the emergence of a pandemic. The moral values that emerge from the vast sea of our mind were the motto for an expressive manifestation of thoughts supported on an idiosyncratic referential basis.
The situation suddenly took over our reality, and, immediately, a “war” against a virus began, which materialized in several actions, perhaps the most impacting being the infamous confinement. Much has been discussed about the value of the word war in the current context. However, any belligerent, perhaps sometimes dysphemic, lexicon reveals only the great visible impact, paradoxically of invisible origin, in changing sociological behavior paradigms. In turn, this change, despite being sensibly and transversally accepted, is politically imposed, which raises the fear of the resurgence of some type of autocratic movement that could jeopardize values as important as democratic freedom. This wasn’t the case in Portuguese reality. Nevertheless, the imposition of physical and social confinement is real, such as the transformation of daily dynamics. The very condition of the present essay represents a reaction to the imposition.
Curiously, in a context of forced isolation in which introspective time multiplies, and, being subjective expression the exponent of our freedom, we have never been analytically so free. It is in this duality between expressive freedom and physical confinement that the impulse of a personal manifestation arises, something recurrent in history. Dostoevsky, for example, wrote some of his works confined in prison, which consisted of literary allegories that were based on existentialist thoughts and Russian society. Also, reflective manifestos hardly spring from an instantaneous flippant genius. The questions, the themes, and the problems are debates that are already present, intermittent, and repressed by the speed of everyday life.
It is attached to this reflexive logic, supported by a continuous critical analytical spirit, that this reaction to a specific event arises. Long before its reproduction, its aura was already being defined – using Walter Benjamin’s term – even if still unconscious. As mentioned initially, the moral values that emerge from the vast sea of our unconscious, whose depths are full of potentially harmful emotional impulses that in these moments easily trigger, were the motto for a formal materialization of already existing reflections and references.
In an analogy to the organizational triptych system of the human psyche according to Sigmund Freud, composed of the Ego, ID, and Superego, a subjective interpretation of the unconscious impulses triggered by the pandemic is proposed, with an abstract representation that is materialized through an illustrative architectural lexicon. Explaining the concepts referred would be reductive and tautological. However, it is important to associate them simply, with ideas and feelings, to make the formal motives perceptible. In this sense, we can define the Ego as the ontological “I”, as the closest instance to reality, associating it with reason; the ID to primitive emotions, drives, and the search for immediate pleasure; the Superego to the moral conscience, to the emphasis of the values and ideals of the society in which we are inserted. In the 3 stages of our mind (unconscious, preconscious, and conscious), the ID is inscribed in the unconscious, while the Superego oscillates between the unconscious and the conscious, with the Ego being the instance that is normally present in our conscious.
A morphology begins to emerge that interprets the movement of the collective unconscious through the alteration of social dynamics in the period of confinement. The result is an idea of a tripartite construction within the three levels of our mind, with three volumes that represent the three instances that constitute it. Each volume is associated with a primary color, as a De Stijl action, in a completely intuitive correspondence, linking the fiery
We are facing one of the biggest psychoanalytic conflicts of our unconscious, and without realizing it, the collective meaning seems to emerge responding to the call of necessity. Our State has determined the Emergence of our Superego. Quarantine presents itself as the real health consequence, evoking psychic punishment and social responsibility. In turn, its ephemerality refers to the transitory process of psychic balances and imbalances, which means, it represents an unbalanced sociological state that is both penitential and restorative, presupposing a healing process. This reflection is crystallized through the proposed architectural form, as a subjective symbol of an individual reading.
The general narrative described can be divided into several phases, at different moments that aroused different feelings and reactions. The illustrative map that is presented is precisely a survey of the parabolic path that we all live, but in a subjective representation and with an allegorical construction according to the Freudian psychic apparatus. In his conception, sometimes in parallel, sometimes later, many times before, the rhetorical mapping that guides the arrangement and order of the nine defined illustrations emerged. Its composition and organization can be subject to multiple interpretations, but the presentation follows the narrative script that accompanies it, a concept totally in keeping with personal experiences. There won’t be an explanation of the compositional organization of the map because, for that, the adjacent narrative already exists. However, it is essential to explain that the different illustrations are composed of different architectural representations of the allegoric base, referring to the emergence of the Superego, arranged in such a way that, subjectively, they refer to a relationship with the words chosen for the nine phases identified, respectively: Pugna (fight); Melancholy; Order; Isolation; Neurosis; Noesis; Hope; Abnegation; Catharsis.
These illustrations appear as a graphic analogy, in a somewhat suprematist way, to the dynamics of the psyche spectrum, based
A kind of Cartesian logic underlies this whole mental process, as well as its final result, an unsettling desire to question and participate, fostered a Cosa Mentale that can manifest itself in infinitely different ways. These representations appear above all as testimony and questioning, but also as a subjective answer to the questions of the possibilities of the state of mind in a shocking situation like this. On the other hand, it refers to a nostalgic and laudatory attitude towards the community, even though temporary confinement can have a cathartic effect that is often necessary. It could be said that many of the issues raised by this pandemic are, in part, exacerbated by the subsequent reflection, which manifests itself formally in an allegorical way, through the reuse of concepts and their resignification, a little like the ready-made of Marcel Duchamp, although in this case,
the shape is original. The result appears to be a conscientious phenomenological exercise, while the formal lexicon is undoubtedly architectural; however, the expression is pictorial.
Thus, confinement, paradoxically, encourages us to enjoy expressive freedom. Its awareness, in a certain field, whose anticipatory component is strong, as is the case of art or architecture, works as an analytical fuel that feeds our creative engine. The resulting material appears as a form of an individual process, an intermittent process, interspersed with drawings and notes, this being the only text produced continuously, in the form of an explanatory epilogue. Its process confides legitimacy to its questioning, confides fear to its fragility, but above all it confides freedom of thought, and an operative impulse that yields to temptation and manifests itself. Architecture appears as a representative tool in the realization of this (psycho)analytic process.
|ATA/R.1||Endogenous Empiricism||ELALAB, GW||2019|
The trip to Guinea-Bissau comes without any pretext of architectural or ethnographic research, it comes from stories and sparkles in the eyes, sighs that convey states of mind. In the inevitable Bissau, however, one can foresee a warm vernacular culture, much obfuscated by the search for an international development that alternates with the Portuguese melancholy that in obsolescence insists on resisting.
Architecture no longer refers to the place, it is the place. Here, the architecture is the clearing and the grove that organize the implantation; it is the earth and the water that become the rammed earth that creates the envelope for the fresh spaces; it is the mangrove wood and the fiber of the palm tree that intertwined, structure the limit and cover through which the air circulates; it is the rice stem that provides the culm that protects from the rains and shade from the sun; it is the wood of the poilão tree that sculpts the canoes and doors; it is the community that comes together in an artisanal process perfected by time.
In Guinea – not – Bissau, I let myself be carried away by the movement of the sun and the slower speed of time, which allowed me to calmly absorb the surrounding reality, recorded by drawing and photography that, due to their inert nature, become reductive. However, they allow us to understand how through an empirical process these communities develop a sustainable architecture, using passive methods and local resources that, intelligently arranged with simple constructive systems, through a self-built process, create functional and comfortable spaces for living.
|Project ID||Name||Location||Date / Time|
|ATA/P.2||Soares dos Reis||Porto, PT||2014-2015|
Soares dos Reis Apartment
An apartment located in the 1st floor of a multi-family housing block representative of the modernist architecture of the 50’s in the city of Porto. Exaggeratedly subdivided, disproportionately dimensioned, and functionally inadequate for nowadays, this space needed an organizational readjustment. Furthermore, it was clear an overlapping of constructive layers (pavements, coverings, ceilings and window frames), that disfigured the space asking for a depuration work.
The space had two elements that seemed important to reclaim: The first element was a structural mesh of tall beams appar- ently misadjusted with the interior organization, consequence of the unusual typological distribution of the building (with apartments of larger areas in the first floor and smaller áreas in the 4 floors above). The second element that was materially and formally worthy of preservation is the pine wood floor parquet in a herringbone pattern – some parts covered with new pavements, other parts completely replaced.
In a first phase, the space was reorganized and redimensioned: We totally reconfigured the kitchen and bathrooms; general layouts were completely redefined – in the social area we created a wid-
In a second phase – more empirical and in result of the dem- olitions – we clarified the intervention in correlation with the beams layout, whether released and disconnected from them, evoking the pre-existing compartiments, or guided by them in their new redistribution.
Leote do Rego
The city is always an anachronistic home for the newcomer. Its built ecosystem reveals disparate forms that reflect the narrative of the time. Thus, demiurges, circumscribed to their formal ontology, dream the bodies.
The new is a hybrid and multifaceted being that emerges in a conflicting scenario. The multifamily ancestry is numerous and determines the altimetric scale, but it is the small and old being that wistfully defines its expressions, and, in this way, avoids its disappearance in time, if not physical, at least memorial. Its body members are an apology for poor relatives, the forgettable industrial bastards with a fragile umbilical cord that connects them to their urban mother. Their connection, however, is strengthened and replicated, lighting the way on the one hand, and countering its
The inexorable telluric circumstances are apprehended in the necessary functional mechanics, in a general configuration whose purpose is a kind of metaphysical harmony amplified by the geometric-spatial gnosis. The arithmetical ingeniosity, fed by the territory genetic code, overlaps the beauty of the congenital scribble,the intuitive organicity of nature’s design. The morose and atrocious tenacity of a frowning face reappears in the splendor of a geometric smile that does not hide its process. On the contrary, it is assumed as a seed of its alacrity.
The form is consequent; action on a problem that determines a new problem and a new answer, in a cascade of decisions
Praça das Companhas
Public equipment and urban planning
The commission is part of a macro urban plan to redesign the seafront of Esmoriz and Cortegaça. The intervention area is Praça das Companhas, the tail-end of the main access axis that reaches the beach, and representative space for“Arte Xávega”, an activity that shaped the development of the community and the built territory. The project appears on two levels. First, to enhance the fishing activity through the creation of a dynamic program. Second, to qualify the seafront, not only by returning the visual relationship that is now non-existent, but also with the renaturalization of the dune, with programs such as surf, tourism, and restaurants, which can and should coexist with fishing activity.
Thus, the proposal is characterized by a simple gesture on three levels: a raised platform that restores the views towards the sea; an intermediate level next to the seawall and access to the beach; and the lowest level related to the street. Consecutively, this action is divided into 3 zones: north, the end of Avenida da Praia with the viewpoint tower and a new square that works as a transitional hinge between the 3 levels of the route; the central one, with a built volume in concrete, with a constant and adaptable metric, allowing
|ATA/P.14||Fernão de Magalhães||Porto, PT||2018-ONGOING|
Fernão de Magalhães
The plot aimed for intervention is a corner on Av. Fernão Magalhães, one of the main urban arteries of Porto, which is characterized by its morphological heterogeneity. The plot’s surroundings are composed of buildings with dissonant architectural languages built throughout the 20th century, as well as a discrepancy of scales, namely in the transition with its transversal axes, predominantly defined by single- family typologies of the 19th century, a situation exacerbated by the strictness of the regulations in the urban corners’ transitions.
The proposal is a formal and typological laud for this confluence of apparently belligerent realities, which intends to prove the possibility of their coexistence in harmony, always in close relationship with the place.
Planimetrically, two typological actions are defined, physically separated: a collective housing block that forms the corner
Altimetrically, 3 formal and material moments are presented: on the first level, an in situ concrete base that defines the intervention area; on a second level, facades in prefabricated concrete that dialogue with the construction period with granite of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, namely on the 2 floors of the houses’ facade and on the 3 floors of the protected building to the north; on the last level, an expanded metal sheet facade, in a more contemporary language, turned to the 21st century.
The entire building is designed using a rigorous metric that organizes the interior spaces and is reflected in the facades. The main stairwell coils in height, connecting to the north facade on the residential floors, allowing the social spaces and bedrooms to face the common patio to the south, or east and west, while kitchens and sanitary facilities face mainly north.
The exciting challenge of designing an isolated building from scratch with four facades is quickly faced with a set of bureaucratic and contextual constraints. Between the implantation design defined by the new urban plan in force, the barrack’s views annulment intention of the National Defense, the interference of the patrimony in the material and formal options, and the profitable and programmatic demands of the real estate developers, there was limited space for a vision that responds to the circumstances of the place.
Despite the complexity of the process, the proposal
Access to the apartments is via exterior galleries that bring the light from the north into the infrastructural spaces while the bedrooms and living rooms face south, a solution that is not unrelated to Aldoar’s ascendancy. In turn, the altimetric shift enhances permeability that guarantees transversal ventilation and adds formal richness to the spaces, particularly on the corner’s last floors.
Morphologically, the proposal is a reflection of its typological organization and external circumstances, in a brutalist guise of concrete and brick that evokes the austerity of the monastery/ barrack. The north façade is cynical and belligerent, mirroring, on the one hand, the typological dichotomy, while hiding the inner truth in its walls and windows that are always the same. The south façade
is linear and transparent, extending in its clear lexicon to the west. The east façade is free and experimental, taking advantage of its unnecessary utility to bet on formal expression.
The purpose is the consolidation of a protected city block in the city center by stitching the requested use – housing – with the need of solving the scale disruption of the urban void to intervene.
Schematically, it is proposed a building composed by two volumes for each street with a jagged courtyard inside the block, with a central staircase that acts as a vital piece of the project, not only by its indelible impact in the space perception, but mainly because this
The elevation metric, the tiles color and pattern choice, the distance between windows, as well as the design of the element itself – two casement opening with a fixed top panel limited by concrete pilasters – retains the association of the dynamics and tectonic character of Porto’s surrounding buildings. The place is the inexorable circumstance that dictates the formal lexicon.
The typological distribution – 4 apartments per floor – is intentionally hostage of the urban scale memory, in a morphological corollary that results in 4 volumes of 4 roof planes each, that evoke the 4 original plots, which composes the 5th project elevation. The ground floor is physically and visually permeable, functioning as an intermediate space between public and private, the moment where commerce and housing merge together and the space where the streets connect. The apartments turn their social areas to the street while the private area take advantage of the central courtyard inmost character, assuring transversal ventilation.