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The City in Conflict

Magazine Architecture | 01 Mar 2016

It is impossible to pass through the city without seeing the “commas between the houses” [Henri Michaux, in Antologia, 1999]. Sentences in the city are heavy with punctuation, with exclamation marks. The senses are reflected on their façades, on the grooved granite, on the embossed tiling and in the colourful plastering, which makes the streets so frenetic to go through.

The city that has reached us after centuries of pasts was worthy, and rightly so, of being placed on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites in 1996. Someone looked at Oporto’s Historic Centre and agreed that this was an urban and natural landscape like no other, which does not exist in any other part of the planet. Anyone who comes to visit it expects to find these outlines of authenticity of a city on a human scale, with the stories and the people that built it.
But for this admirably convoluted “text” that everyone speaks today to be understood, we need to go back to a time in which the old city was falling, packed with needy families. Dilapidated houses with tiny rooms, bedrooms without ventilation or direct light, unsanitary and inefficient kitchens and bathrooms, overcrowded living spaces the promiscuity of which brought to mind, in a bad comparison, the slave ships of the past. (…)

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Photo: Barredo – Study of Block 1, in Porto Património Mundial – CRUARB 25 anos de Reabilitação Urbana

Text: Luis Brito Architect working in the area of urban regeneration

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