The creation, in 1974, of SAAL was intended to assist financially challenged populations to obtain a decent dwelling. It corresponded to a unique moment in the history of Portugal, following April 25th revolution, where participatory processes were tested in a close relationship between the designers (the brigades) and the population. The Bouça Housing Complex, a project of Álvaro Siza, was included in SAAL promotion and corresponded to an adaptation of a pre-revolution project, prepared for FFH. The construction process was interrupted in 1978 (following SAAL's extinction in October 1976) and only the first phase was completed-58 houses out of a total of 131-corresponding to intermediate areas of implantation and without definitive access.
In a central area of Porto, Bouça remained as a revolutionary open scar for almost 25 years, until 1999, when Álvaro Siza was invited to conclude the intervention with the construction of the absent buildings and the rehabilitation of existing ones, work that was finished in 2006.
Bouça Housing Complex corresponds to an exceptional operation in national context, not only due to the intrinsic characteristics of the project but also because of its process and constructive definition. Bouça was finished nearly three decades after its starting, incorporating new issues that buildings and architecture meanwhile had to face-such as the inescapable role of the car or new demands of comfort and energy consumption-and rethinking the whole construction system balancing new requirements and respect for the initial idea. Even though new intervention should have been based on the same initial conditions, in terms of areas, building systems but also the social population for which it was intended-the former residents of 1974's degraded houses and who were eventually relocated to other urban areas-upon conclusion few were the initial residents who decided to return to their place of origin and a middle-upper class population (with an expected high incidence of architects) acquired the small houses.
Clara Pimenta do Vale
University of Porto | UP · Faculty of Architecture
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