M. Francisca M. Lima
PhD in Landscape Architecture
Santo Estevão as an Expanding Landscape
Paper and ink, (2012)
Population trends have a significant impact in the city’s communications efficiency, in housing markets and in ecological fluxes. To a city, loosing population means more disconnectedness, less innovation (Knudsen, 2007), less energy efficiency, and more social segregation (EEA, 2009, Haase, 2008). Lisbon’s City Core is one of these cases. Mainly due to a suburbanisation process, the city lost more than 40% of the population in the last 60 years (PLHL, 2009).
The construction of urban scenarios is key to unveil future solutions, working as an important steeping stone in the investigation.
The work presented focuses on one of the five civil parishes that have had population losses, constantly above 20%, since 1981 – Santo Estevão. This civil parish is part of the medieval neighborhood of Alfama, named after the Arab word Al-Hammam, meaning bath, concerning some water springs. The water availability made the territory attractive, and home to the most fortunate families, until the late XVIII century. By that time the city had been substantially destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, and reconstructed in the form of a modern town: wide, open and orthogonal. Moreover, an aqueduct was built to bring fresh water to serve the entire population. Suddenly, Alfama’s characteristics were no longer assets and most of its inhabitants moved to the new town. This migration flow brought the economic decline and social segregation that still exists on the site today (JFSE, 2012).
More than an urban fossil with the narrow and sinuous urban structure, this landscape can be considered as a social fossil where urban dwellers maintain a close social network, as if a village was preserved inside the city.
What could raise the quality of life of these spaces without destroying the character of the neighborhood? And in doing that, what is the role of the open spaces as community spaces?