1. Peace

Portugal, much like the rest of Europe, is advancing rapidly towards a society of cultural and social atomization, not only in the larger urban centers, but throughout the territory.

Social and identity transformations occur at an increasingly accelerated pace, with an impact on different ways of living, of understanding work, education or leisure.

Diversity is the norm, which is reflected in the individual's need for continuous adaptation, for his own survival, given the relevance of these transformations.

There is an urgent need for the city to transform itself into an intercultural space in order to allow citizens of different origins and identities to mix, interact and communicate. The intercultural city refuses atomization, ghettoization and racialization and shapes its planning policies, from housing to public spaces, in guaranteeing the rights of all and the city for all.

But is this the city we are building today?

2. Houses

The right to housing is enshrined in the Portuguese Constitution of 1976 (art.º 65), as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN of 1948 (art.º 25). The State's effort in housing, which dates back to 1918, has always been insufficient. It is enough to remember that only 2% of the total current housing stock is of public initiative.

Portugal is currently experiencing the great housing crisis of this century.

A crisis that takes on different facets, extends to vast and different layers of the population and to different territorial problems. On the one hand, it comes from the inability of the population to bear the inflated costs in city centers, pressured by tourism, investment funds, the difference in the cost of living between countries and the nomadization of work. On the other hand, it stems from the inability of low-density territories to retain population, being unattractive for private investment. And, finally, it directly reflects the lack of successful public housing policies that incorporate either a social and integration balance, or a good quality of architecture and construction, in an accessible way.

The largest state housing program is underway in Portugal, following the approval in 2019 of the Basic Housing Law and the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). Multiple programs for specific situations – support for young people, people with incomes below the poverty level, immigrants, refugees, the elderly, etc. – are in practice, but they are sectorized or respond to urgent situations, without articulation or communication with each other, not promoting the city for all. Rarely are these programs made with reference to the populations of the communities in which they are inserted, and the characterization of their specific needs.

Do these actions carry a reflection on dwelling and types of dwelling? Do they consider the configurations and reconfigurations of the family or family groups, intergenerational living, aging at home, the habits of cultures from different geographies and religions, or the presence of domestic animals, among other specificities?

If the family is in transformation, if it is dynamic, fluid, elastic, commuting, one-person, and the house a space for several people to share, how to respond to the right to dwell?

Do small-scale interventions within urban fabrics that promote urban regeneration and social cohesion have a place in the funding and management models of public programs in a comprehensive and effective way?

Could it be that rehabilitation options, in effective/primary compliance with sustainability objectives through the reduction of waste and CO2 emissions, and providing for the requalification of cities and the huge vacant housing stock, should not be the predominant model?

To what extent is the public space also being considered? Are the voids being the object of reflection on their use, management and appropriation program? Is its potential for meeting, collective participation and continuity with the city being equated beyond the vegetal and mineral filling?

Fifty years ago, the SAAL* program brought to the surface, with the participation of future inhabitants, a movement for the right to the city and housing, thus claiming their place in the city, which was barred by the extreme poverty to which they were condemned. The resulting typological and urban research, as well as its process and financial models, continue to constitute a disciplinary and international reference. Tragically, and according to ongoing housing programs, it appears to never have existed.

Currently, the objective of the Portuguese Government is to build 25,000 dwellings in the next two years. The resulting design competitions for housing construction are evidence of current policies, dominated by the quantification of costs, areas, deadlines, regulations, obsolete norms, and incongruous notions of accessibility and energy efficiency, far from the discussion of urban design, the populations and their different characteristics.

For the most part, as far as city model proposals, they are absolutely similar, with little room for diversity, becoming even difficult to distinguish in terms of its architecture. The Pre-design and Programming stage, from the point of view of the commission, seems to impede progress beyond a generic, aseptic and universal city, indifferent to social and intercultural needs, rather than a specific local response and an interconnection with the context where the project is integrated. Are there any elements being given to designers to promote inclusive city models?

In recent decades, the State has chosen to withdraw from public housing, leaving public institutions without means of reflection for continuous work on housing. There remains only a sense of urgency, in the face of the crisis that is now emerging on the surface, to guide public actions today.

* Local Ambulatory Support Service (SAAL), a state housing construction program that emerged after the April 25th,1974 Carnation Revolution, which set out to address the housing needs of underprivileged populations in Portugal. SAAL operations, inserted in the social climate of popular action that characterized the Revolutionary Period of the time, became an international reference in terms of people’s participation in housing and urban design processes. The interaction between technical brigades of architects and the population organized in residents' commissions contributed to what is considered a unique moment in the history of Portuguese architecture.(+ info >ço_de_Apoio_Ambulatório_Local)

3. More than Housing | April 2074

The prevailing social complexity suggests the strengthening of a global citizenship marked by the ability of citizens to self-organize in a multitude of forms of participation in the defense of their rights and in the decisions that concern them directly.

The 50 years that have passed since the April 25th revolution, must be celebrated with a reflection on those issues that then and today remain a challenge, an unfulfilled necessity. An unfortunate coincidence, 50 years later, the problem of access to housing has once again become one of the most urgent problems to be resolved.

The Schools of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Fine Arts have the capacity and the duty to contribute to this debate, with research projects and practical intervention, adapted to the current Portuguese context, and to the present moment, with the enthusiasm and critical, creative and open involvement, of students and teachers.

The challenge hereby proposed is the contribution of schools with proposals for today's open and intercultural society.

Teresa Novais e Luís Tavares Pereira

February 2023