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C O E X IS T E N C E i n p o r t u g u ese h er i ta g e

Andrea Porras

CONTENTS Andrea Porras

CHAPT E RS K E YWO RD S Itinerary Introduction


Defining Duality


1. Natural and Artificial


2. Dispossession and Preservation


3. Exploitation nd Development


4. Spirituality and Power







5. Water and Coast


5. Historical and Contemporary




This book aims to capture the pure essence of coexistence; a concept that embodies my field of research during my time in Portugal. The book is organized in six chapters, each referencing specific locations and areas of study. The maps consist of a combination of sketches, photography and analytical images put together to better illustrate the different realms of coexistence in Portuguese heritage.











V E N D A S N O VA S 6 10







DUALISM In the wide spectrum of moments, gestures and characteristics that define a place, lies the possibility of duality. Dualism is a term that goes beyond the simple juxtaposition of two elements, it rather considers and celebrates the layering of two contrasted aspects and their ability to coexist in harmony. Portugal, as a place that embodies a history of structural changes, discoveries, revolutions and conquests, is an active expression of duality. Visible in its history, its ideology, its architecture and its geology, this new language allows for Portugal’s essence to be discussed in greater amplitude.

spite the internal disjuncture, the country’s compact size has encouraged mobility in both secular and conservative ideologies that were previously confined to each pole. Today, Portugal embodies a dynamic conversation between elements that have contributed to the makeup of its dual character.

Lisbon, as the center of Portuguese commerce, politics and tourism, is also a place that welcomes urban modernization while embracing its historical features. As a result, the reconstruction of the city after the 1755 earthquake, largely focused on the rehabilitation of historical districts and the renoThe duality of the Portuguese landscape vation of waterfront sectors. The proximity serves to expose the trajectory of beliefs, of historical structures to contemporary religions and other forms of expression that projects is a direct reference to the sense of dominated in either the North or the South. duality that has been referred. For instance, The contrast between these two regions in the Santa María de Belém district, the was highly influenced by the differentiating urban landscape design celebrates historigeological character of each one. While the cal monuments like the fortified Tower of vast exposure to the Atlantic shaped the Belém and the Jerónimos Monastery while expansion of the North, people in the South inviting one to engage with modern architook advantage of Portugal’s Mediterranean tecture that challenges the style of the space features and climate to make a living. Deas a whole. Furthermore, the contemporary

complex of Belem’s Cultural District directly faces historical structures encouraging the viewer to interpret this contrast of old and new as part of their experience. This inability to label the city as purely historical or purely modern introduces a new lens by which we can begin to understand Portuguese heritage. In the Alentejo region, Portugal’s dual character takes a new form; it rather embodies the duality of the natural and the artificial, the exploitation against the conservation of natural resources. As we continue to move through the region, it becomes more evident that no space is purely designated as one or the other. Encounters with beautiful coasts are suddenly invaded by the presence of large industries that overpower the natural. As I wandered through the Sao Torpes coast, the subtle sound of the waves timidly approaching the coast took me to a place far apart from human development, a vivid image that disappeared as I turned to face the coal burning factory that resided behind me. This moment of realization, of experienc-


ing two opposing situations simultaneously allowed me to understand the magic of a place where such features can coexist. A feeling that has come along through all of my time in Portugal. The beauty of Portugal’s duality can be compressed into a single slab of local marble stone. A material whose variation in colors, veins and density is sometimes so evident that when a large slab is divided into smaller units and looked at individually, one would never imagine that two pieces are part of the same cut. In other words, a single piece of marble can vary so much in its density, colors and structure that two pieces of the same slab can result completely different. The magic comes in when the two dissimilar pieces are puzzled into a larger one, and the stone becomes a story of dual character, just like Portugal.

chapter 1

N AT URAL AN D AR T I F I CI A L stone and cork exploration

Landscape The anthropogenic influence upon nature has greatly affected the way we refer to landscapes and natural environments. Since nature is often associated with production and creation, the exploitation of natural resources has become a common practice. Accordingly, the landscapes we encounter today are no longer purely natural and it is hard to find a place free from human intervention. In Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet, Nigel Clark argues that, inevitably, “the natural world will become a human product”. He also introduces the idea that transformation of global and local environments responds to our way of seeing nature as a commodity. Through this lens, human beings have come to exploit natural resources and justify their actions through the belief that nature exists for our consumption only. In his essay entitled “Nature”, Williams defines nature as “the

primitive condition before human society”; which allows us to argue that in our contemporary world there is no such thing as a natural landscape. In both the Algarve and the Alentejo regions of Portugal, green fields have been interpreted as profitable land and are now filled up with monocultures whose ultimate purpose is to create monetary flows. Recently, capitalism has overpowered traditional processes around the world affecting the way we produce things with the means of accumulation. Vila Viçosa, also known as Portugal’s marble zone, serves to study the point of intersection between the natural and the artificial. In this case, the natural taking the form of stone before extraction and the artificial becoming any piece of stone that has undergone the process of extraction to be turned into a product. Dissimilar to other

mountainous regions in Portugal, Vila Viçosa’s landscape is rather made up of countless blocks of “marble waste” that are piled in the form of mountains. Even though the material is still 100% natural, it does not read as such since it has undergone human intervention to some degree. In a similar way, cork tree forests around the South of Portugal expose the process of cork extraction. Even though many of these forests remain purely “natural” the trees whose bark has been precisely removed for production interrupt the idea that there are still pieces of land that remain in “primitive condition”. This dialogue between the natural and the artificial can be seen throughout Portuguese landscapes in a wide range of forms. The variety of places we were able to visit in our travel allowed me to understand this changing relationship between natu-

chapter 1

ral and artificial in Portuguese landscapes. Visiting marble extraction zones, cork production companies and other enterprises focused on the extraction of natural resources allowed me to reinterpret human traces in natural landscapes differently. For which I argue that natural landscapes as “the original landscape that exists before it is acted upon by human culture� no longer exist, and that we rather live in a world where the world natural is becoming man-made.

fiekd sketches

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chapter 1

typology of human intervention in marble

Index “Map 1�

chapter 1

typology of human intervention in cork

Index: “Map 1�

chapter 2

D IS P O S S E SSI O N A N D P RESE RVATION Po u s a d a d e B ej a , C a s tel o d e M o u r a , A l d ei a d e L u z , I g rej a M atr i z

Dispossession Dispossession, being “the act of taking somebody’s property away from them”, is also a term that embodies an unfair imposition of ideals, beliefs and cultures. Through history, dispossession has been empowered by capitalism, colonization and dominant religions striving for authority. Unfortunately, this system has often allowed for many groups to suffer the consequences of being marginalized and of losing their sense of belonging. In Portugal, the simple notion of dominance has largely influenced its history of dispossession. When Portugal still operated under Islamic rule, Muslims built grand structures including mosques, castles and villages; all of which were later overpowered by Christians and repurposed to serve as churches, convents and monasteries. Since

the 8th century, Moors and other minority groups were forced to abandon their territories and although they never reclaimed these, their essence still lives through the architecture and dwellings. Mértola, also known as the “Museum Town”, is a place that exposes Portugal’s history of dispossession. The town’s main church, Igreja Matriz, serves as a space were Moorish architecture coexists with Christian beliefs. Even though the building now serves a Catholic Church, its structure was left unaltered revealing its Islamic origin. For instance, its interior consists of various naves and columns arranged uniformly in a rectangular form; a common typology in Moorish architecture. Mértola’s landscape, as many other towns in the Southern region of Portugal, vividly exposes a history of dispossession through the layering of different cultures that have

chapter 2

occupied the space. In recent years, dispossession has rather been influenced by a culture of capitalism; in which profitability has become the main concern. In fact, the creation of Portugal’s largest water reservoir hides a history of grief and displacement. The execution of the Alqueva Dam project required an entire village, Aldeia de Luz, to be relocated since it was standing in the way of the project. Even though the villagers had resided in the area for many generations, they were immediately forced out of their dwellings. Despite the fact that people were effectively relocated into newly built houses, the sense of home was never recovered. In other words, the villagers were not only displaced from a piece of land but were also dispossessed from something they were deeply attached too and recognized as part of themselves.

In Portugal, the memory of groups that were once dispossessed lives through visual elements that have been preserved over time; allowing us to visually imagine the spaces in various moments through history. Pousada de Beja, perfectly illustrates this history of dispossession that has been referred. Originally serving as a convent, the space later housed military officers and now merely functions as a hotel. Its past, however, becomes visible through different elements that have been preserved ever since monks occupied the space.

F I E L D S K E T C H - I G R E JA M AT R I Z , M É RT O L A

“Time shapes the space in which we live both physically and culturally and along with the actions of men their marks are long lasting and often irreversible” - Aldeia de Luz

The layering of stories and cultures that characterize many towns in the Alentejo region is something that the new town of Luz lacks. In our visit, as I walked through the empty and colorless streets, the absence of people’s attachment to the town was highly visible, serving to remind us of its history of grief and dispossession. F I E L D S K E T C H - T H E N E W C O N V E N T, A R R A B I D A

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chapter 2





Index: “Map 2”

chapter 3

EXPLOITAT I O N A N D D E V ELO PMENT A r r a b i d a N a t u r a l P a r k , S a d o R i v e r E s t u a r y, C i t y o f L a g o s

Resource Portugal, as many other European nations, has relied on its resources to develop both physically and economically. The country’s history of resource exploitation ranges from fishery and forestry to stone extraction and slave trade. The term resource, often described as “a stock or supply that allows the country to support itself and grow economically” has largely influenced Portugal’s development. Stone extraction goes a long way in Portugal’s past. The unlimited access to marble and limestone allowed the Portuguese to build grand structures such as monasteries, castles and places of worship. In fact,

the location of convents and monasteries built around the 15th and 16th centuries was largely determined by their proximity to stone extraction sites; as it was the main material used for construction. The development in Arrabida, a mountainous region located South of Lisbon, became possible only through the extraction of local stone. Even though the area was recently declared as a natural park, it still houses convents and dwellings that speak to the exploitation of such resources. In a similar way, the development of many cities in Portugal was only possible through the exploitation of the fishery in-

dustry. Setúbal, a city that sits on the northern bank of the Sado River estuary, owes its growth to the resources that became readily available by its proximity to water. Today, the fishing industry still sustains Setúbal’s economy, encouraging further development to occur near the area. The close relationship between resource exploitation and development can also be examined through the slave market established in Lagos in the 15th century. The wealth of the city was enabled by the exploitation of slaves bought by rich families and the Catholic Church. In this case, a resource that was socially constructed empow-

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ered people to grow in ways that seemed unimaginable and many times unethical. In Lagos, slaves were exploited to work for Portuguese welfare only. The shortage of Portuguese laborers directly affected the use and demand for slaves until their abolition in the 19th century. This dialogue between resource exploita-

tion and development has persisted through Portugal’s history many times encouraging social differences in space. The fact that many of these resources often have a monetary value, and therefore are not equally accessible to all, allows us to discuss them in terms of privilege.

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¹ Stone extraction goes a long way in Portugal’s history. First implemented in the 15th century, this tactic allowed for the development of many structures and urban areas. In Arrabida, monks utilized local stone to build convents and places of worship. 2 Fishery is a leading economic activity in Portugal. In fact, the exploitation of marine resources has influenced the development of various coastal towns. The growth of Setúbal, one of the most influential districts in the fishing industry, is due to its interconnection with the Sado River estuary. 3 Slavery was introduced to Portugal in the 15th century, affecting the dynamic of the country’s work force and the notion of power. In Lagos, the first village to implement slave trade, wealthy families and the Catholic Church were the main buyers. That being the case, many churches hide a dark history of inequality and forced labour upon slaves.


chapter 3



Index: “Map 3”

chapter 4

SPIRITUALITY AND POWER Capela dos Ossos, Igreja do Santo Antonio, Igreja da Graça

Authority The word authority being “the power or right to give orders, make decisions and enforce obedience” is an idea that has also shaped Portugal’s history. In Europe, the Catholic Church, an organization having both political and administrative power, was legally granted the permission to unfairly superimpose their beliefs upon many. In Portugal’s history, the government and the Catholic Church have been closely related affecting the development of cities, religious monuments and other places of worship. This dual power shared between the Catholic Church and the monarchs now lives through ruins, churches and city grids that were designed with a Christian mindset.

Cities like Lagos, Tavira and Faro allude to what once was Christian domination since they serve as the starting point for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This journey of spiritual significance helped many people encounter their Christian faith and eventually encouraged the spread of Christianity.

and monks, justified their actions by the fact that they were helping others through a journey of spiritual relief. In Lagos, the Catholic Church and wealthy families were the first ones to engage in the process of slave trade. However, this hideous act was “accepted” by society since it was portrayed as a way to help the newcomers find salvation. With this objective, European beliefs However, the Catholic Church has not were imposed upon African slaves and they always acted in ways that peacefully enwere forced to completely abandon their courage people’s devotion to the religion. In traditions. Accordingly, slaves underwent Portugal, many convents, churches and cities spiritual processes like baptism and were not tell a story of manipulation of authority that allowed to practice their own beliefs. In the resulted in unfair treatments of many and city of Lagos, archeologists recently found a even death. Many times, Catholics, priests huge mass grave of African slaves with more

chapter 4

than 150 bodies that were once disposed in the Valley of Lepers. This problematic history was brought to surface as archeologists discovered the tortured bones during an excavation in 2009. As more research was conducted after the findings, it was proved that the slaves who refused to undergo the process of Christianization, or were simply not baptized, were disposed (like trash) into this area outside of the city walls. It is fair to argue that the inequitable

imposition of authority has often been misinterpreted as salvation or spiritual relief in many religions. In Lisbon, some of the crudest depictions of this history were revealed as the convent of Grace was opened to the public. In this convent, an entire hallway is filled with images of torture and war to tell the story of how Queen Ketevan of Georgia was killed because of her refusal to renounce to Christian faith and convert to Islam. This history allows us to understand that many religions have abused of their au-

thority and power in unimaginable ways. In Portugal, this authority often benefited the privileged but put the rest in a disadvantage. As we were able to observe in the Palace of Mafra, it was only the military, the monks and the royal family who had access to the best health care and services. The notion of authority allowed the church to put many at a disadvantage and make decisions that only benefited the devotees.



Index: “Map 4”


chapter 5

WATER AND COAST P r a i a S a o To r p e s , C u l a t r a I s l a n d , L a g o s

These maps examine the different moments of encounter between the water and coast across different coastal areas in the South of Portugal. The study began in Praia Sao Torpes as I noticed how the passage of water created beautiful and dynamic compositions in the sand. Through a series of pictures, field sketches and experiential writing I was able to revisit my time in these places and map the various moments of encounter with the patterns. In the maps, the boldest white line represents the coast line and the curved lines represent the tidal change through which the patterns became more visible.

Experiential sketch

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Index: “Map 5”

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chapter 5

Index: “Map 5”

chapter 6

HISTORICAL AND CONTEMPORARY Aqueducts and Dwellings: Évora

Water Water being “the basis of the fluids of living organisms” has also become our most valuable resource. The fact that water “has shaped our landscape, dictated the location of our cities, protected our health and fueled our economic development” (UIESCE Water) is often ignored in our contemporary world. Since water has become something of easy access, we no longer think of the times when it was merely a luxury. In Portugal, as the concept of urbanization spread in the South, access to water became a huge issue many times limiting the development of cities. The scarcity of water was also due to Portugal’s dry climate and lack of rainfall which often resulted in recurring periods of drought. This insufficiency shifted the dynamics of water consumption since it became a socio-political issue concerning privilege and power. Particularly, it raised the question of “who or what has rights to

nature?” (Swyngedouw, 2015) Roman towns established in the South of Portugal often dealt with this issue by creating extensive aqueducts that allowed for clean water to be easily distributed to different areas in the city. In fact, the development that occurred in Évora (once a Roman town) was possible since water supply was planned along with the rest of the urban landscape. Évora’s Aqueduto de Prata still serves to bring clean water into the city and now the structure beautifully surrounds many dwellings located inside the city walls. As I walked through Évora’s Giraldo Square, hints of the aqueduct slowly began to appear. Starting at the fountain in the main square, I was able to follow the structure as it made its way through the city, beyond the walls and into the highway. Interestingly, many dwellings now rest

underneath the structure without disturbing the arches but allowing people to occupy the space effectively. In Évora, cisterns were also an effective way to store water and many of these impressive underground structures can still be seen in the city’s historical districts. Moreover, water supply has not only affected urban development in Portugal, it has also come to affect the realm of agriculture and production. In recent years, new irrigation systems, mechanisms and dams have been implemented under circumstances of desperation to increase the availability of water. In fact, Portugal’s largest artificial lake was created with the sole purpose of having more water ready for utilization in the agriculture industry. On the other hand, the inability to create effective water supply systems often led

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to the abandonment of many villages and developed areas. The castle and village of Montemor-O-Novo perfectly express the power of water to dictate our lives. In this area, since the city was built on the highest part of the mountain and water supply was extremely inefficient, people were eventually forced to move down into the outskirts of the mountain. Therefore, it is fair to conclude that, in our contemporary world, it is impossible to think about water outside of a political context. The interrelation between human beings and water forces an anthropogenic view on the topic, especially when it comes to city development and urban landscapes.

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Comparison between historical and contemporary aqueducts and the way they become part of the urban setting. The combination of sketches and map serve to highlight the distinct character of each structure. Aqueduto de Prata Quinta da Malagueira by Alvaro Siza

Index: “Map 6”


MA P 1 :

MAP 2:

MAP 3 :

Ven das Nova s, C ork Fa c to r y

C a s tel o d e M o u r a

Setúba l

Vila Viçosa , M a rble Quar r y

Vi l a Vi ç o s a , M a r bl e Q u a r r y

A l d ei a d e L u z

M ér to l a , I g rej a M atr i z

La g os

Ar r a bida

MA P 4 :

MAP 5:

MAP 6 :


Sa o To r p es

Évor a


C u l atr a I s l a n d

Ma l a g ueir a




Birmingham, David. A Concise History of Portugal Disney, A. R. “Introduction: The Geographical Setting” Jack, Malcolm. Lisbon, City of the Sea: A History Jerome Cohen, Jef frey Stone: An Ecolog y of the Inhuman Minneapolis: Univer sity of Minnesota Press, 2015. Project MUSE. Web. 16 May. 2015 Mer riam-Webster Dictionar y https: //www.mer Swyngedouw, Erik Liquid Power: Contested Hydro-Moder nities in Twentieth-Centur y Soain. Cambridge: T he MIT Press, 2015. Project. MUSE UIESCO Water https: // Wikipedia

Profile for Andrea Porras

Coexistence in Portuguese Heritage  

Coexistence in Portuguese Heritage