Year – 2020
Coordination - Miguel Gomes, José Luis Saldanha
University – ISCTE-IUL School of Technology and Architecture
Location – Lisbon, Portugal
Lecturers – Albuquerque Goinhas, Cristina de Mendonça, Nuno Griff
Students - (Eduardo Alves, Marco Cardoso, Mário Santos, Neuza Duarte, Nuno Fernandes, Renata Almeida) | (André Martins, Inês Dias, João Silva, Nancy Boleto, Sara Costa) | (Ana Rodrigues, Beatriz Beato, Daniel Martins, David Carvalho, Iolanda Rosado, Simão Abreu)
Photography - João Carlos Simões | EMBAIXADA
“It is impossible, as impossible as to raise the dead, to restore anything that has ever been great or beautiful in architecture.”
John Ruskin (1849), Chapter VI: The lamp of Memory, in The Seven Lamps of Architecture
This contemporary-seeming quote by Ruskin prompts an important research question: If it is impossible to restore architecture that was once great or beautiful, what should we as architects do with all the rest, with that which is not so great, which is common, incomplete, maladjusted, ugly?
The current period in which city centres all over the world are being crystallised could it be the ideal moment to pose this question before the ‘preservation syndrome’ spreads to the rest of the city.
From an architectural standpoint, this preservation syndrome leads to an overvaluation of extant building structures. Age is no guarantee of architectural quality; on the contrary, a natural process of selection should lead to renewal. Yet new and contemporary programmes remain liable to error. If in certain cases the possibility of adequacy can be successfully deployed in the spatial identity of the building, in others a change of spatial use fails, leading to inconsistent meaning. How should we proceed? Rehabilitation? Renovation? Demolition?
Paradigm of Renovation
Our proposal in this workshop was to base a case study around a un-architectural piece at the boundaries of the formal city, but at the same time connected to the urban fabric. The chosen site was Torres da Eira (Eira Towers) in Lisbon, a large compound for council housing from the 70s, designed by Francisco & Antonieta Silva Dias, and from which only 2 towers were actually built.
The challenge proposed to the students was to rethink these architectural objects in their context using the concept of “The Thickness of the Limit” as a tool to create intermediation between public/private, formal/informal, and to recreate lost connections.
The work methodology consisted of student discussion and experiments on the proposed subject, with research carried out in 3 stages.
Assignment 1 - “Ways of seeing” + “The eyes of the skin”
This assignment explored strategies of perception and conception of site specifics through quantitative and qualitative analysis. After an on-site visit, students enroll in a working group (max. 6 students per group) that analyses and draws both the tangible and intangible elements of the site from physical and phenomenological perspectives. Physical models, 3D digital models, 2D technical drawings and on-site action research (creating on-site records of measuring tools) were made, providing a work base for the next assignments.
Assignment 2 - “The thickness of the limit” (first approach)
Starting with the idea of subtraction, the aim of this assignment was to learn how to deconstruct physical limits/boundaries between spaces without losing their prominent characteristics. Students should erase elements from the object of study and develop the site’s characteristics in order to create relations between the newly generated spaces. Students should find ways to materialise the result of their research in a synthetic way.
Assignment 3 - “The thickness of the limit” (second approach)
Taking as a base the result of assignment 2, the aim of this exercise was to reshape physical limits/boundaries between spaces by adding new elements. Students can add architectural elements to the object of study and develop the site’s characteristics in order to create relations between the newly generated spaces. Students should find ways to materialise the result of their research in a synthetic way.
The workshop culminates with an open presentation in the university, for which a very synthetic A0 panel was requested.