Valley of Massarelos - Porto - Portugal

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Why is this case relevant?

The Valley of Massarelos was an important place of fixation of the populations in the ancient city of Porto and a focus of development.

The presence of water allowed the fertility of the land and the existence of mills. This made it possible the settlement of the population and gave rise to a ensemble of narrow alleys and agricultural fields laid on agriculture, milling and fishing.

Due to the privileged position of the place, in their sunny slopes facing west, were installed big houses of wealthy families of Porto with their terraced beautiful gardens.

Subsequently, large factories were installed, resulting today in an important industrial archeology site.

With the cultural changes that occurred in the city due to the industrialization, centralization and use of the automobile, the place went into stagnation and degradation. Due to its identity characteristics, the place wasn't able to adapt to the growth and the new demands of the population.

In nowadays, this Heritage Landscapes is threatened by the forgetfulness and abandonment by the Man and the Culture that throughout the times has shaped it and continues to shape!

Which idea of ‘design with nature’ guides the design concept of this site?

The design concept of this site was created by the same process that reflects the landscape concept: Man + Nature! According to Caldeira Cabral (Great Master of Landscape Architecture in Portugal), the landscape is the "set of conditions of existence of the biocenosis of which man is a part". In this way, the landscape evolves with the needs of man and this relation of biocenosis. It was in this relationship that the Vale de Massarelos developed. Man has always sought land for agriculture, better than this, was if this land have a motive power, like a water course, which due their topography allow the installation of mills to milling cereals produced locally and make bread. The Valley of Massarelos had all this! The heritage landscape of Massarelos Valley, has being shaped based in this logic process. The apparent abandonment and lack of interest that seems manifested in nowadays in relation to this place, continues to result from the Cultural interaction of Man and is place. It result of general people perception that today, the everyday experiences, don't coexist with the potentialities of the local. For that reason, this a completely cultural place, which depends on human interaction and maintenance. If it falls into oblivion, and isn't maintained, the degradation will be accentuate which will possible lead to total loss of the existing heritage. In fact, this has already been observed in respect to the ruins of mills that have now disappeared almost entirely.

Which challenges is this landscape facing?

The most negative impact is the danger of forgetting and abandonment that could lead to degradation of the area and the hazards associated with it. These dangers are of cultural, landscape and for the population residing or using the space. This negative impact is reflected in: the direct loss of patrimony such as the construction on terraces, mills, etc; the permanent loss/modification of the identity of the site; the loss of intangible heritage associated with the resident population ("bairrismo", popular festivals, religious festivals, ...).

In order to counteract these facts, there are actions that could be taken to recover the landscape and cultural heritage of the area that could involve the resident population in order to activate the sense of belonging and protection in relation to the territory. Apart from this, the heritage area could be integrated in touristic routes of the city being diffused giving the motto to its regeneration. Since Porto is "in fashion" and there is a great afluence of tourism into the city, it would be appropriated the creation of a tourist office / interpretive center in the interior of the area to share the uses and traditions associated with the place and its importance in the "old Porto". The abandoned houses that could not be integrated on the population daily life could be reused to a tourism perspective as an external form of activation of the territory.

What would be your strategy for improvement?

The main idea is the "activation of territory". That is, to reestablish the connection of people to the territory and its appropriation because there is a need to know in order to protect. Firstly, it is necessary to alert and give knowledge about the existing patrimony and for this it is important to reach as many people as possible. Nowadays, the Internet is the main mean of disseminating information and because of that it is very useful to this aim. Taking this into account, it could be constructed an interactive website with the present values of the place (historical, landscape, patrimonial and cultural) which could act as a local repository of information about the place where everyone could share information. The student public constitutes another way to spread information. It would be interesting to carry out actions in schools where students could contribute to the recovery and activation of the territory, developing actions in which they would paint and restore elements in the place (walls, facades, mills, etc). The population itself must be “reconnected” with the space in collaboration with the cultural associations and of dwellers in order to revive traditions and do not let the intangible heritage and of memory of the place to die. In the territory, there could be "activating points of the territory" where people would be invited to make their contribution to the register of the heritage. As for example, in specific points, such are the views over the surroundings or over patrimonial elements, invite the people to take a photo of the present moment and share, through a Qr-code, their reconstitution of a old photo.

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References

  • Author Year: Valley of Massarelos, Daniela Santos.
  • etc.
  • Website Year: 2018, Valley of Massarelos, ...
  • etc.



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