Quinta da Malagueira in the outskirts of Évora, South of Portugal, is Álvaro Siza’s third experience in the construction of social housing programs after São Victor and Bouça in his hometown Oporto.
After Portugal dictatorship was put to an end on 25 April 1974, one of the first priorities of the new administration was the construction of affordable housing to face the emergency created by large masses of people moving from the countryside to urban centres. Started in 1977, Quinta da Malagueira was Siza’s biggest project so far, a community of 1,200 houses to be built on 27 hectares of expropriated agricultural land outside Évora, a former Roman town which became the capital of the Alentejo region in southern Portugal.
Siza chose a high density, but low-rise scheme with a maximal height of six metres, managing to spare agricultural land. Only two house types are employed in the scheme, both built on an 8m x 12m plot, combined in order to provide a great formal variety with an emphasis on a solid/void pattern given by the presence of courtyards and terraces, and conceived to allow different levels of expansion. The patio houses are comprised between narrow, pedestrian only, pathways. In the central part of the development lies a commercial square, while several green spaces with different functions and sizes punctuate the whole scheme.
Malagueira is an effective piece of a city, conceived globally by his architect, Siza, who was the main responsible for its development for over two decades. Two illegal settlements, Santa Maria and Nossa Senhora da Gloria were standing on the site before Siza’s intervention as well as several pre-existing structures.
The recognition of the spontaneous walking patterns traced on the land helped Siza to understand the site topography and the inhabitants behaviour in moving across the site, leading to the first conception of the master plan. Two main axes were traced: the first, oriented East-West, linked the neighborhood to the old town of Évora, the second, oriented North-South, connected the two clandestine districts.
The clusters of houses are superposed to a strict road scheme, but the third level of the project structures the territory and marks the continuity with the existing urban centre: all the infrastructures serving the houses, (water, electricity, and gas), instead of being located underground, are concentrated in a viaduct in exposed concrete, named “la Conducta” which reminds the Évora Roman acqueduct. The “Conducta” also works as arcades to distribute the commercial services and as the starting point for the exterior walls of the housing units while providing a larger scale to relate with the overall territory.
The language of the development is a complex mix of modern and vernacular architecture with some details, like the yellow frame around the windows, directly linking the project to the houses at the centre of Évora.
According to Pier Vittorio Aureli, the Quinta da Malagueira is “the last great architectural contribution to the city in which architecture plays a fundamental role.” (…) What is unique about Quinta da Malagueira is that formal principles and political intentions seem to come together as one project. Conceived with exceptional momentum, it was built after the ‘74 revolution, when workers’ councils addressed the condition of housing in Portugal as their main political priority. And just as the housing blocks built by the Social Democratic municipality in Vienna from 1919 to 1934 − the so-called ‘Red Vienna’ − found their archetypical form in the architecture of the courtyard block (the hof), the political agenda of the SAAL brigades found its pertinent architectural resolution in Siza’s architettura povera.
Read more what Aureli’s and other renowned architects’ have said on the Quinta da Malagueira in Évora by Alvaro Siza, on this essay accompanied by a mini-documentary by Ellis Woodman on the Architectural Review.
Interview with Alvaro Siza on CONTINUITY IN ARCHITECTURE
Malagueira on Empirismo Eretico
“Revisiting Siza: An archaeology of the future” by Ellis Woodman on The Architectural Review
Quinta da Malagueira on Housing Prototypes
Photos by ekainj
Photo by Torchondo
Images via vakkum