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EUROPAN12 - VILA VIÇOSA New life, in between times

I – TERRITORIAL AND URBAN CONTEX Vila Viçosa is located in the Alentejo region, characterized by a low population density. The landscape is also quite thin - Mediterranean cultures predominate (olive, cork oak, vines and wheat) in extended uses and normally in large properties. The extensive and undulating plain has few accidents that contrast with the dominant horizontality. The population is concentrated in large towns or small cities, with the largest centrality in Évora. Most of these urban centres are located in sites that dominate the plain. A clear transition between urban and rural also recalls ancient military functions of border defence in proximity to Spain. In the territorial scope we can find strategic areas and connections: the Alqueva Lake1, with tourism and economic activities associated; the proximity to Spain connected by A6 highway linking Lisbon to Madrid, a major improvement on Vila Viçosa accessibility. Other nearby towns - Évora2, Estremoz, Elvas and Borba - have important complementary dynamic interactions between services and economic activities. The stronger interaction of Vila Viçosa with Évora and Elvas is the use of public services (Higher Education and Health), and tourism. With Borba and Estremoz the dynamics refer to economic activities associated to wine and marbles processing industries, commercial and services (tourism and catering, leisure and culture).

Image 1- Vila Viçosa's territorial context: nearby towns, marble areas and major infrastructures


1 Alqueva dam has a lagoon with 250 km , the larger water mirror of Europa. 2 Évora is an UNESCO World Heritage Site


The geology of the surrounding territory is composed by an extensive zone of marbles mining3, very important for the town development, with a bedrock that extends for several neighbouring municipalities. Vila Viçosa is the exploration epicentre of this great marble geological structure: a growing activity for decades that today shows some signs of decline. Given recent tendencies in global market circuits, it becomes more important for Portugal to increase its products positioning, in this particular case of marble processing, entering in world trade platforms for ornamental stones. In this sense, it is vital to promote ideas on the feasibility of such an action in Vila Viçosa to improve efficiency of distribution and marketing channels. The unique and non-renewable characteristic of this resource, together with its high value and demand, urged the definition of a captive area destined to its exploitation - Captive area of the Marble Zone - identified in the Regional Plan of the Marbles Zone (PROZOM). This plan had as motivation the need to address hydrological system balance, and marble exploration viability from mismanagement, for instance containing the occupation of unexplored areas with marble waste deposits. The development of the plan targeted: - Planning and rationalization of marble exploration; - Rule setting for establishment of processing activities; - Waste and by-products management; - Environmental and landscape rehabilitation of depleted or abandoned areas; - Infrastructure integrated management safeguarding ecological systems. Despite these very strong elements of cohesion and territorial and landscape identity, some negative factors, such as population aging and declining birth rate, show signs of decline. Vila Viçosa has also some indicators of more optimistic economic dynamic, related to the above mentioned marble extraction and a growing demand of tourist (cultural and religious) activities and infrastructures. It is in this dynamic that should be enhanced the prospects for adaptation in Europan Competition. Vila Viçosa, genesis and growth The genesis of Vila Viçosa, today a town of about 4.000 inhabitants, has a very strong identity matrix on landscape, monumental, urban, social, cultural and economic features. What makes the appeal of Vila Viçosa and differentiates from its surroundings, is the Historic Centre, ranging chronologically relevant expansion periods, since its XIII century urban genesis in the Castle area. Initially this area occupied the entire walled perimeter then partially demolished at the beginning of XX century, to give place to the churchyard of the Nossa Senhora da Conceição Church and Sanctuary. Vila Viçosa plays a relevant role in Portugal's history with the presence of the Dukes of Bragança (a dynasty that ruled the country since the XVII century until the proclamation of the Republic in 1910). The presence of the court gave to Vila Viçosa, along with historical relevance, a pole of culture and humanism, matched with an urban matrix of the dominant Renaissance culture in Europe. This presence is reflected in the town, in several built heritage


Estremoz Anticline (geological term)


elements: the Bragança's Palace "Paço Ducal", public space opposite “Terreiro do Paço de Vila Viçosa” and also the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Conceição linked to a religious cult with strong character to nationality. Noteworthy are also the Palace Gardens "Reguengo", the Royal Hunting Reserve, the "Bishop's Palace", the Augustinians Convent (Ducal pantheon), Chagas Convent (now an historic inn) and several court nobles' town houses, which occupy the expansion urban fabric of this historic town.

Image 2 - Medieval house

Image 3 -Castle inner nucleus

Image 4 - N.Sra Conceição Sanctuary

Image 5 - Castle aerial view


Image 6 - Historic Centre aerial view

The 'renaissance town' of XVI century Bragança's aristocracy, has a regular layout dependent from pre-existence features, as the Palace, Castle, convents, water lines and topographical display. It expresses the grand intention of renaissance "vila nova": linear design, new urban scale and erudite expression, not typical in countryside areas. It is a reformed centre in the way of Antiquity cities (or how were then imagined), with a pure classic lines highlighted by noblest of cladding materials: "the lavish houses of palace, opened in 1537 with many large square white marbles windows extracted from nearby quarries [...]"4.

Image 7 - Stone quarry

Image 8 - Bragança's Palace "Paço Ducal"

In the transition for the XX century it is important to sign out, besides the final definitions on the urban plan layout (image 9), the presence in Vila Viçosa of Henrique Pousão, an impressionist painter and Florbela Espanca a remarkable poet.


Rafael Moreira in ‘Monumentos Nº6’ March 1997


The "Estado Novo" dictatorship urban operation in 50s of the XX century aimed at a certain monumentalisation of the central axis, which now stands out from the orthogonal grid. This ideological operation, stated a new scale and urban functionality and specially a new 'monumental' perspective focused on the medieval Castle. This involved the demolition of several housing urban blocks and part of the bastions structure, implying its separation from the urban core. This action also included the construction of several new public facilities, commercial and industrial infrastructures from which stands out the transformation of S. Paul Convent in factory (milling, oil, soap and others). Within this program of action, was also demolished the area in from of the Church to the Castle area for greater visibility of 'monuments', with a new landscape layout of the inner wall area and its surroundings.

Image 9 - Vila Viçosa map, 1892

Image 10 - Vila Viçosa in the 60's (XX century)

From town planning to current strategy In the planning context, Vila Viçosa has approved the Municipal Master Plan and has in progress a Protection and Development Plan for the Historic Center. It is in this context that the Strategic Plan for Urban Regeneration of Vila Viçosa (reViVe) is envisioned, seeking to establish a compromise between the different planning instruments before mentioned. It is within this Strategic Plan that the site (Strategic and Project) subject of the EUROPAN 12 Competition is determined. The Plan 'reViVe' is an integrated urban development plan, comprising a systematic operation of urban regeneration, whose priority is local development and urban refurbishment. The area to preserve and to qualify, bigger than the included in the Europan Competition, integrates a broad range of heritage values and urban landscape features, having by principles of action: - The strategic potential of Vila Viçosa as reference of national culture, symbolism and identity; - The relevance of the urban centre, its historical, landscape and architectural context, facing difficulties connected to urban disordering; - Responsibility for the reuse and contemporary experiencing of the town cultural heritage (degraded, underused and unable to be used buildings and structures); - The opportunity of an integrated management of Cultural Heritage, with new instruments for action - disciplinary, legal and economic – in a participatory dynamic;


Image 11 - Strategic Plan for Urban Regeneration of Vila Viรงosa (reViVe) areas and Europan Competition sites location

The strategic goals of this specific instrument, through the collaboration of public authorities with the private sector, will be to have a program of physical and financial execution with social, cultural and economic regeneration and the use of several significant elements of the built heritage. It is intended to counteract the critical framework of life cycle depletion growing in the past two decades, with new targets for regeneration such as: - Recover abandoned heritage, degraded or underused, improving the town's image and enhancing new uses; - Qualify recent neighbourhoods and peripheral expansions, regarding natural and landscape resources, connecting them with the consolidated urban fabric (north entrance; S. Domingos, Peixinhos, Alto da Boa Vista); - Articulate the Castle hill and the Sanctuary with the urban surrounding fabric, developing facilities and public spaces; - To publicize and produce knowledge about personalities related to the town (Florbela Espanca, Henrique Pousรฃo, Bento de Jesus Caraรงa, Nuno Portas and Espiga Pinto). Expansion, Centrality and Adaptability The urban management of Vila Viรงosa is based on the Municipal Master Plan review, approved in December 2008. However the existence of this type of instrument has not ensured a sense of consistency over the past decades. In terms of global urban landscape, since the 80's (XX century) the town has witnessed major changes in its townscape. Some examples can be the loss of coherence of the 'monumental site', the loss of framing of its outstanding elements (Palace, Castle, Sanctuary, etc) and loss of character of new housing schemes, not referring to existent typologies and the presence of trees binding to the rural universe.


Image 12 - Housing typologies with large courtyards

Image 13 - Presence of trees on the urban landscape

Regarding the road network, a new generation of interventions in recent years altered the town structure and image perception of public space: - A circular connection, linking the historic north entrance to the new south entrance, diverting heavy goods traffic (particularly marble transport) out of the centre; - A variant of the 255 national road, allowing direct access to the A6 highway (Lisbon-Madrid) offering a new global perception, from a high level, of the entire urban landscape of Vila Viรงosa. These operations reconfigure the circulation scheme, favouring the use of motor vehicles, while transforming previously lateral spaces into new central areas with strategic potential for the development of a new urban front.

Image 14 - Variant road in construction

Image 15 - Circular and roundabout in construction

For topographical, natural and heritage safeguard reasons, the north hillsides cannot perform a potential for urban expansion in an appropriate scale. Thus in a medium-term perspective only the south hillside may play this role in two distinct situations: - The continuity situation within the urban structure, related to the 'natural' expansion started in the 80s (6 - Expansion Area), with a program of response to shortages in housing and industrial today also with services; - And the other, which corresponds to the Europan strategic site, with a more different and diversified character and several abandoned or expectant units. The 'South Entry' competition site has strategic goals of reinvention of a collective space for multiple needs and time frames, answering questions of uncertainty:


How to build a project approach on programmatic scenarios with significant uncertainty regarding its evolution? Should urban design be rigid in the sense of interpretation and continuity of existing urban networks? Or flexible enough to allow maximum adaptability, in a time of great changes, uncertainty and limited resources? There’s the need to focus urban management instruments on qualification with a creative program in which EUROPAN12’s strategic and project site play a major role.

II – STRATEGIC SITE Description: Diversity, Complementarity and Visibility The strategic site of approximately 80 ha, includes the entire functional surroundings of the project site (approx. 6 ha) as well as the several dynamics and transformation factors still uncertain. The study area comprises several distinct realities: - Consolidated spaces - Municipal facilities area (3) with relevant public spaces "Antigo Carrascal", "Largo Gago Coutinho" and "Campo da Restauração";

Image 16 – Open spaces

Image 17 – Open spaces

- Reconversion and rehabilitation areas - Lapa Heritage Site (4) and Railway area (13);

Image 18 - Lapa Church

Image 19 - Lapa dormitory building


Image 20 - Abandoned railway line

Image 21 - Old railway station, current Marble museum

- Expectant areas to transform - Europan project site; - Adjacent areas to main road connections with hybrid characteristics in need of a future structure - Farms (10), Mixed use area (housing/ Informal commerce (12);

Image 22 – South entrance area

Image 23 – South entrance area

- Plantation areas for landscape recovery – Olive plantation area (8).

Image 24 - Olive plantation

Image 25 - Olive plantation and old railway line

In the surroundings of the strategic site further features can be identified: - Working Class Neighbourhood (5) (from 50's) is social-housing oriented project from the dictatorship period. Today it is a consolidated area of paired single-family houses, that has been subject of typological and constructive changes, following new functional requirements but also ensuring morphological consistency and response as housing market needs. Close to this neighbourhood, there’s a linear block of earlier construction with low density housing (typically 1 storey high) with a large vacant interior plot (5a); - Expansion area(6) from the 80's (Quinta Augusta) a housing area of single-family houses some in linear block and some multifamily buildings up to three storeys; - Industrial area (7) developed more recently. 9

In this context there is a set of potential strategic elements for action: - Former railway line, support structures and warehouses; - Lapa heritage site: church, dormitory and gardens; - Municipal facilities: schools, library, archive and sports centre; - Obsolete marble processing units; - New road infrastructure (circular way and variant to national road) in new south entrance; - Olive plantation area with potential for hybrid uses. Basically, this is a non consolidated area, resulting from separate and unplanned actions, associated to marble processing industries and complementary activities (such as warehouses, working units), and some unused constructions linked to the railway. This area corresponds to the original core of industrial activities, today in phase of abandonment and decay. A vision for the strategic site Nowadays this is a territory of major visibility once it configures the southern entrance of Vila Viçosa, establishing a direct link with the main road running through the town, the EN254. The approach to this area should focus on redefining a new centrality, marking a new entrance to the town, with qualified uses and spaces, allowing the articulation between the various urban fabrics and urban areas in transformation. The several units can target specific goals: - In the Municipal facilities area where a new hotel has recently opened, a garden to establish continuity with the public space structure is planned; - For the Lapa Heritage Site, encompassing Church, Dormitory and Gardens a restoration and refurbishment action is foreseen, for better adequacy for hosting religious and cultural events with new accommodation needs; - The old Railway area includes the former station (now provisionally adapted to a Marble Museum), the former operations centre, several pavilions for the storage and a set of houses for rail workers. It is intend to develop new ideas for new uses and activities in these places, focused on the service sector: culture, hospitality, tourism, etc, occupying available buildings and space. The greenway (on the old rail line between Vila Viçosa, Borba and Estremoz) can integrate landscape and public space interventions and links to the olive plantation and municipal facilities areas; - The olive plantation area can accommodate sport and nature activities or act as a reserve space to fulfil the functions of the old "carrascais." This type of space corresponds to 'empty' large scale collective public spaces, with availability and flexibility to host different events (commercial, religious, sports, cultural, recreational, etc.). These spaces, part of the towns’ urban tradition, need new options of formalization and location (in this area or another); - The adjacent areas to EN 254 road connections should respond formality to a new entry, and new needs of urban expansion, with mixed uses; - The industrial area, presently a mono-functional space, with insignificant, restaurants, services and public space structures. It is envisaged the creation of new infrastructures to support trade, training and technological development of the marble industry, with articulation to the centre.


III – PROJECT SITE Description: Features, Transformation and References Important elements to keep and frame: - Heritage: Biquinha Aqueduct, a singular infrastructure of public water supply, today with a low significant presence, should integrate the proposed design; - Roundabout and road connection, should be integrate the proposed transformation, connection the industrial area, working class neighbourhood, Lapa heritage site and contiguous public spaces. Possible transformation elements No in place existing buildings have a value to be kept. Regarding the road network, although the EN254 road that crosses project site, is an historical and functional link to keep, its connections to contiguous areas can be greatly improved within the transformation of this area, setting a new road section and design that better suites active transportation modes. A new programmatic framework The creation of a commercial and business 'cluster' as well as a large-scale and versatile public space, adjacent to the new town 'door' - South Entrance - will be the core goal of the Europan competition, seeking a creatively action to face the economic weakening of marble industries to new needs in public spaces. What is expected from the competitors proposals is the simulated shape of a new life-cycle, with a new constructed morphology for new uses and activities in different scenarios in the context of a free approach in a free interpretation of the present situation and the site potential giving as a feedback a plausible representation of an urban regeneration process towards a new cycle of urban vitality adaptable to different possibilities. There are also no relevant natural elements or values to be kept. This is an area with a very incoherent urban and architectural expression, generic and hybrid, with no particular relevance at this level and virtually with no direct constraints. This expectant area can play a major role in the articulation of the several contiguous consolidated urban fabrics (Working Class Neighbourhood, Industrial area) and in transformation (railway area, road network, etc.).

Image 26 - Roundabout, new entrance area

Image 27 - Gymnasium in an old warehouse

The project site has a need for strong new elements that may be adaptable solutions to future times; The set of vectors - programmatic and temporal – are very variable and uncertain, but some important aspects highlight possible approaches, such as: 11

- Definition of a space available for diverse cultural, sports, commercial, outdoor events; - Definition of minimal structures, with a light infrastructure without permanent impacts and low investments and controlled maintenance costs. Therefore, to find flexible and adaptable urban solutions, simulating alternative programs that are not yet known in detail, is the overall challenge intended to be replied. Complementary, ways to accomplish in this area the major goals of the current Strategic Plan, supporting programmatic alternatives to the built space: - Tourism activities development (cultural and religious) - hotels, cultural venues, services, etc.; - Diversification of marble processing activities - R&D spaces of, design, architecture, engineering and technologies, marketing and commerce, promotion and advertising, etc..

Image 28 - Inactive marble processing units

Image 29 - Inactive marble processing units

Image 30 - Inactive marble processing units

Image 31 - Inactive marble processing units

The project site can have as starting point of zero degree scenario, a blank sheet. This fact associated with urgency to find a valued answer to counterpart to the loss of large public spaces, is of strategic importance to Vila Viçosa fulfilling a role: - Solution for a large public square; - Reserve area for cyclical and ephemeral occupations as traditional markets and fairs; - More permanent structures, but of minimum features, to support tourism activities in the town; - Large showcase entrance and exhibitor facility for marble economical business. Articulation of this space with the surrounding infra-structures should also be promoted, in particular EN254 road, the roundabout, the circular way and the greenway to be constructed in the former railway. And even though it is understandable the need to ensure the "recycling" of infrastructures that today have an inappropriate design, the dominant vocation of this area is the need to find a new public space for large-scale and a location of structures for the development of the ‘techno-pole’, supporting trade and commercial activity.


Image 32 - EN 245 road entering the town

Image 33 - EN 245 road view

Image 34 - EN 245 road in the new entrance area

Image 35 - EN 245 road view

For the purpose of design proposals, some urban planning parameters can be considered (as guidance): - Maximum storeys: 4 above ground and 2 in basement; - Overall plot occupation ratio: 0,25 (≈ 75 % of free permeable area); - Mixed use.

IV - THE ADAPTABLE CITY IN VILA VIÇOSA One of the main purposes of this competition site is to adapt the existing urban design that is historically rooted in a context of changing reality, into a new life cycle, paying attention to the elements where time factor will be decisive, in the solving of current uncertainties. The configuration of the new 'entrance' will promote a regenerated image of inactive areas with better space availability for future urban growth. At the same time there’s the purpose to stimulate conditions for a new centrality, hosting functions and uses focused on the marbles business and its knowledge economy: technology, design, marketing and trade. A possible exhibition centre and hotel infrastructures that can also be directed to religious, cultural, 'sport and nature' tourism may be a trigger for a future growth. Introducing new urban concepts focused on the need for large-scale spaces (as an alternative to the old "carrascais" spaces), is another field of adaptability for events at local, regional and international levels. The coexistence of urban consolidated space with available spaces that are adaptable to new forms of connection between urban and rural universes, will allow new ways of living a cultural landscape with potential for emerging uses. Finally, a review the road network redesign articulated with soft mobility promotion and connection of nearby areas, in new alternatives to the excessive dependence on automobile use are foreseen as part of adaptability goals. 13

Vilavicosa pt c pr  
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