The unpredictability of space

The unpredictability of space

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In the end of his text, Ignasi de Solà-Morales questions “how can architecture act in the terrain vague without becoming an aggressive instrument of power and abstract reason?” He believes that the answer to this question lies in a strategy of continuity, rather than disruption. Not a formal continuity, but a continuity that attends to the “flows, the energies, the rhythms established by the passing of time and the loss of limits.”
In the beginning of the XXI century, in Belém, an historical west riverside parish of Lisbon, monumentally organized with the 1940 Portuguese World Exhibition, a terrain still remained expectant since its acquisition by the State Secretary of Culture (SEC) in the 90’s. The destiny of the existing military facilities (meanwhile occupied as a deposit by the SEC) remained uncertain until it was determined that there would be installed the new National Coach Museum.
The project was part of an ambitious urban regeneration strategy, an icon of a “Grand Plan” carried by the Portuguese State to the river waterfront. Although the project implicated the integral demolition of the existing facilities, the place kept an evocative power, previously hidden beyond the military walls, internal to the city structure and external to its daily life. The absence of limits that characterizes the museum ground floor seems to propose a different kind of terrain vague: strangely familiar, purposely uncertain, uncompromised, free of use, as part of the city flows. It is difficult to name this public place, as it is neither a plaza, an internal garden or a block courtyard. On the other hand, the monumental expression proposed by the new museum buildings is closer to the idea of an “instrument of power and abstract reason”. Can this exterior space, designed to accommodate the unpredictability of life, be read in a strategy of continuity with the city and its history? If so, why does it stands so strangely to many?

Corresponding Author

Nuno Tavares da Costa


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Nuno Tavares da Costa


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Preferred Track

3. Terrain vague redevelopments

Second Preferred Track

6. Urban policies

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