Workshop in Cascais, Portugal

Francesco Calzolaio reflection

The interdisciplinary design workshop of the waterfront of the coastal city of Cascais was an opportunity to involve learners (students) and teachers of many nationalities to bring together the demands of government and citizens to breakdown the urban barrier of the four-lane road. The aim was to open up access to the sea to citizens and visitors, in a constant audience development of cultural and environmental resources of the city.


The waterfront of Cascais has unique elements that distinguish it, especially the cliff overlooking the ocean and the sequence of beaches and headlands, while the waterfront looks like countless other European cases, where the frame of historic buildings, the sequence of cultural landscapes and naturalistic features, are now absorbed in a linear built continuum. As often happens, especially in prestigious waterfront as Cascais, the real estate pressure has saturated the land overlooking the sea and neighbouring areas, gathering a cross hierarchy towards the sea, substantially undifferentiated and disrespectful of the longitudinal sequence of the original landscape. The seaside settlement of the early XXth Century is recognized with difficulty, even in its undisputed value especially in materials and forms, but has lost the ability to establish urban hierarchies, as in the indistinct contemporary beachfront, where only the luxurious and self referenced tourist residency emerges.


The project of the workshop starts from the assumption of responsibility for the recent past and its landscapes, where rivers, streams, villas and architectural emergencies are alternated in a landscape that gathers its value in the continuous intertwining of sea and inland, waters and hills, findings of ancient settlements (even prehistoric) and new symbols of the leading class.


The first private and public tourist facilities had strong elements of conflict. In fact, while the public activities - the Casino and the City - are few but able to generate sumptuous public spaces, such as squares and parks, private settlements are very numerous and widespread, especially villas, fenced and protected as castles.


The workshop addresses this complexity with the support of the public administration, in a happy interplay between academic research of the local university and a strategic capacity not so common in local government. Cascais stands out for its tourism excellence, but also administrative. While the brevity of the workshop did not allow us to fully appreciate the results of this good management, certainly the quality of the questions and the research proposed by the technicians of the administration is at the highest level, which you would not expect in a medium-sized city. Similarly, the cultural approach of the university is of great quality, being able, thanks to the practice of exchanges between these qualified universities and the cooperation of teachers, to manage the brevity of these seminars and to skilfully manage the blend of people and methods.


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