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New faces for urban spaces

Portugal, throughout all of its extent – rural, urban, inland, coastal – confronts the marks of its recent past. The option favouring property and construction (especially of residential properties) and the tertiary economic sector has left a deep legacy. One of the clearest and most serious involves the effective abandoning and subsequent degradation of a huge quantity of spaces and constructions.

The cessation of many of the productive activities in the rural hinterland forced the total or effective disappearance of many communities. The uncontrolled and unplanned construction of new habitation in the major urban centres, and especially on their peripheries, concentrated great numbers in characterless neighbourhoods. Simultaneously, there is the ageing and the abandoning of historical centres, the par excellence centres of life in these urban environments right from their very origins.

Nevertheless, the last two decades has witnessed a resurgence in urban restoration allied with a new desire to repopulate those lands that had hitherto been afflicted by ongoing desertification. Whether due to the effects of the current recession or out of a change in awareness that begins to take general root or even out of the sheer imperative to find viable economic alternatives (searching for niche markets, running innovative businesses, the sustainability of the construction sector).

Out of the examples presented, we may indeed conclude that there are many models, motivations and processes of recovering our communities. We encounter distinct conflicts and interpretations: local council officials slam the lack of regulation that enable property developers to abuse in their occupation of the public space all the while those developers criticise the lack of initiatives and vision of the public and regulatory authorities. Meanwhile, citizens opt to act based upon popular power with an entire region mobilised to preserve its identity and heritage. Divergent visions but with a factor in common: action.

There are many models of recovering our communities.

There was no emission of CO 2 in the production of this article.

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