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Malagueira neighborhood

March 18, 1977, 09:00 in the morning. A car waits at Praça do Sertório, in Évora, for Álvaro Siza Vieira who arrives in the city to see the place where a project commissioned by the City Council will be implemented. However, the trajectory that the architect had in mind already denounced the singularity that would come to define the process and the project itself: as João Santos recounts in his master's thesis, Siza Vieira refused the car, preferring to do it, first, on foot and, then, by plane, the route between the historic center and the more peripheral intervention area, recording in verses and drawings what he saw.

This proposal, despite not being included in the Social Ambulatory Support Service (SAAL), appears in its wake even though, according to some authors, it has largely surpassed it. The area, illegally and precariously inhabited by a very heterogeneous group, mirrored, at the time, according to researcher Ana Rodrigues, “Portuguese society”: people of “gypsy ethnicity”, “returned from former colonies” and young people as a result of the “rural exodus”. The project to be built would respond to two objectives simultaneously. On the one hand, it allowed the “resolution of problems arising from the lack of quality housing at affordable prices”. On the other hand, urbanization planning prevented “clandestine subdivisions”.









The space corresponded to 27 hectares, one third of which was made up of green spaces, in which 1,200 homes would be built - divided between housing cooperatives, residents' associations, the Housing Development Fund, development contracts and the private sector - foreseeing if there were more than 4,000 people residing there. Based on a “participatory and experimental architecture”, the architect favored negotiation with the population. Prioritized, as the same author describes, “a close dialogue and the active participation of the recipients, listening to them and trying to satisfy their desires”.

In a general view, the houses can be seen “back to back”, connected by an aqueduct made of cement blocks, considered “a gesture of identity and guarantee of unity”. This system, popularly referred to as “conduits”, has established itself as the “conductor thread of the housing complex” since “vital infrastructure” is concentrated in it. We refer, therefore, to the “distribution of water, electricity, telephone and television”.

With regard to the organization of the houses on a more particular level, these are of a unique typology, consisting of two floors that divide the “functional organization” of the dwellings. This decision, says the architect himself in a book published in 2000, was much discussed for fear of monotony, since it was considered that “just building patio houses in a sector of the city was inhuman and unacceptable”. However, and after the publication of the book, some twenty years since the start of the project, Álvaro Siza Vieira wrote: “I continue to have the support of the population and cooperatives”.



The access floor, which has a direct connection to the street, is made up of the “service and living” areas, that is to say, “the kitchen, the storage room, the living room, a toilet and a bedroom that can assume different appropriations” . By day, the use of the ground floor is privileged, by night the upper floor.

It is on the upper floor that the houses can differentiate themselves. Depending on the needs of the families, “the typologies can vary between T2 and T5”, thus assuming the “evolutionary character” of the houses. Regarding this specificity, the researcher Mário Gomes assumes: “We do not even have information on the use of the evolutionary house, at any scale, in social housing in Portugal prior to the experience of Malagueira”.

The distribution of the exterior space, that is, the patio and the verandas, is closely related to the occupation of the built-up area inside. Based on the concept of a “house-patio”, which intended to “prevent the invasion of privacy” and “create a microclimate of transition between the climatic conditions outside and inside”, the dwellings stand out among those with a patio in front ( typology A) and those with a courtyard located at the back (typology B).

It is, however, a work considered “incomplete” since spaces that were previously foreseen in the initial project remained to be built. This is the case of the semi-dome, an aparthotel, a medical clinic and a tea house, for example.

Even so, this aspect does not invalidate the fact that specialists have come to consider the project “a case of methodological success”. In the architect's curriculum, "one of the largest projects and which occupied him the most time". For the population, “a participatory process”. Here is Bairro da Malagueira.


Sources: Gomes, M. (2017), “Bairro da Malagueira by Siza Vieira: Factors of identity appropriation around the house”, Kaleidoscope. Rodrigues, A. (2015), “The Experience of Quinta da Malagueira”, 'poster' presented at the 3rd International Housing Congress in the Lusophone Space; Santos, J. (2017). “Malagueira as it never was”, master’s thesis, University of Évora🇧🇷
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