Modern architecture, building tradition and context in southern Portugal
First and second supervisors
Prof Adrian Forty & Dr. Jan Birksted
This research project is aimed at providing a thorough account of the interplay between formal architectural practice, extant built environment and local reception and dissemination in Algarve, southern Portugal, between the decades of 1920 and 1950.
Through this case study, I intend to approach recurrent themes of modern Portuguese architectural practice such as context, locality, regionalism and international influence, model and replication, tradition and progress, and formal use of informal building devices, in a new light. By questioning the prevailing central stance of historiography on the subject, by considering a comprehensive backdrop of local needs, concerns and expectations, and by alternating local, regional and central standpoints – with a strong and unusual focus on the first two –, my project intends to contribute to a broader and deeper understanding of objects often given a standardised, centralised approach. By investigating the roots of a practice – the appropriation of features of local, popular building tradition – which has been seen as a distinctive trait of contemporary Portuguese architecture, I expect to uncover the diversity and potential paradox of the process, and overcome the modernist frame that still, today, moulds its perception: as a unidirectional, erudite, functionalist process, a central view on peripheral contexts, and a positivist evolution of contemporary architects, superseding initial limitations of the modern movement.
The presence of vernacular material and of regional and local variations can be found in modern architecture since its inception, and in recent scholarship the conventional dichotomy between modernism and vernacular has lost much of its former strength. Supported by extensive archival research, I would argue that this was a relationship of permanent negotiation and interdependence, where extra-architectural discourse had an important role; and that vernacular was not a footnote in the narrative of modernism but one of its fundamental chapters.
Ricardo Agarez has a diploma in Architecture (FA-UTL 1996) and a master’s in History of the Arts (Contemporary) (FCSH-UNL 2004). He researches, lectures and publishes on Portuguese architectural history and theory on a full-time basis since 2003, having worked for the Portuguese government’s built heritage information system and specialised in public and residential architecture and urbanism of the 19th and 20th centuries. His work “O Moderno Revisitado. Habitação multifamiliar em Lisboa nos anos 1950” (Modern revisited. Multifamily housing in Lisbon in the 1950s, drawn from his master’s thesis), was published in 2009.
Source of funding
Doctoral grant from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior, Portugal) (2008-2012)