The Quinta da Malagueira housing project in Évora by Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira [1933-…] is an architectural classic. Its grid of parallel rows of streets and alleys, back-to-back patio houses and system of raised concrete aqueducts – connecting the separate residential clusters together – are part of today’s textbook material on social housing. It is so classic, one tends to forget it exists for over thirty years, it still is inhabited and is evolving to a next stage of architectural adaptation. The adaptation [parking, paint and printed materials] of architectural austerity.
Before zooming in on the plan and housing typologies, it is worth looking at the decision and production process behind the project. While some are intrigued by issues of post-occupancy – the idea of measuring the range of mutations mankind can do to buildings once architects completed them -, there could be an equal argument to look into the pre-occupancy politics involved in creating large-scale housing projects.
In ‘The Malagueira Quarter in Évora, Portugal‘ Juan Antonio Zapatel provides following insight in the “Cooperatives and housing production” underlying the planning of 1200 residential units:
The construction of the Malagueira quarter has been executed predominantly by housing cooperatives, whose main responsibility has been the production of residential units under the technical orientation of Siza´s staff, financed by the government. These associations were, and continue to be, directed by elected Malagueira inhabitants.
Of the 1200 residential units planned, 1100 units were built by July 97. The cooperative system has been responsible for 60% of the production, with 660 units built; construction under direct public investment has been responsible for 35% of the total production, with 385 units built. Private ownership construction represents just 5% of the total amount, with 55 units built. Currently, the cooperatives ¨Giralda¨ and ¨Boa Vontade¨ are responsible for the works of the last 100 residential units being built and for the equipment and public spaces to be finished.
When looking closer upon the lay-out of the residential units, the rows of dwellings in Malagueira are only 2-stories high. The website Housing Prototypes provides following context to the project and the architect:
Between 1973 and 1977, Álvaro Siza designed three housing projects that together form a defining period in the architect’s early work. Two of these, Bouça and São Victor were low cost projects designed for the SAAL organization in Porto […] Malagueira, the third project, was designed as a suburban community on the outskirts of Évora, an old Roman town of about 40,000 that was the capital of the Alentejo region, located about 100 miles east of Lisbon. […] Malagueira is a large,low-rise, high density complex of about 1200 dwellings built over a period of about 20 years on a 27 hectare site between two existing barrio communities. All three projects demonstrate a design process for building in dense urban conditions that Siza characterizes as “forming a whole with ruins”. All three are made of similar dwelling types in which an architectural vocabulary of similar, sparse cubic forms is used to develop the geometry and repetitive order typical to most housing designs while at the same time achieving a high degree of architectural variety.
The houses themselves are build according to following principle:
The dwellings at Malagueira are patio or atrium types with an “ell”-shaped group of rooms on two sides of a small interior patio. There are two similar types, both built on an 8m x 12m plot, one with the courtyard in front and the other with the courtyard at the rear. Both have living, dining and kitchen spaces at the courtyard level with an interior stair leading to bedrooms and terraces above. The two types can be combined in several different ways resulting in different patterns of solid and void.
Today one of the key adaptations to the plan involves the incorporation of cars in the narrow alleyways and street. In a recent Interview with Siza Vieira – published in Continuity in Architecture -, the architect talks about this issue with a very interesting sense of praise for the self-organisation of the local community:
By the way, in Évora when I got the job, the idea was to make some collective garages, and those narrow paths, between houses, were pedestrian, also because lots of cars was unthinkable in Malagueira, because that was really meant for poor people, and a quick change was not expected, which was a mistake to predict. But what is a fact is that it started, more cars began to appear, more cars, …and people created a very interesting rule, that in front of every house, there is an eight-meter stop for the owner and nobody else, and going along well with this rule, no one violating this rule, then the streets are too narrow for the cars, but there too, as there are no sidewalks, there are no accidents because the car driver cannot accelerate like a Formula 1, he has to drive slowly because otherwise he will scratch the car, hurt people.
And slowly we drove.
Pictures by movingcities.org