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Aspects of urban integration in SAAL Nord

Type of publication Not peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Contribution to book (non peer-reviewed)
Author Davidovici Irina, Montenegro Manuel,
Project Between autonomy and integration. Housing estates and the European city, 1865-2000
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Contribution to book (non peer-reviewed)

Editor , Canto Moniz Gonçalo
Publisher Fundação de Serralves, Porto
Title of proceedings 74-14 O SAAL E A ARQUITECTURA #


Much of the existing literature on the SAAL phenomenon understandably emphasises its political and social dimensions. This essay is an alternative attempt to concentrate on the built and inhabited aspects of SAAL housing in Porto: what is, not what might have been. From the start however, one finds that the normally reliably factual topic of the ‘actually built’ becomes in this context extremely fluid. SAAL Nord survives as an accumulation of fragments: of actual buildings as of architectural visions, urban fabric and neighborhoods. Printed documents, drawings and written manifestos of the time are similarly fragmentary, their character reflecting the trepidation and uncertainty of rapidly unfolding events. To be sure, the SAAL vision, in Porto as elsewhere, cannot be solely measured by the built projects, some of which were temporary, most of which remain incomplete, and all of which imply compromise. As a methodological proviso, one must take into consideration the role of intense and genuine consultations with local communities, considerable time and budgetary constraints and, eventually, the fatal impact of political obstruction. SAAL Nord’s built legacy is moreover tied into an extraordinary urban situation, one that is neither static nor coherent. If the projects were actively contextual, many of their contexts have changed beyond recognition through demolition or reconstruction; others, cavernous and deserted, still await the redevelopment planned during the brief SAAL years. Changes made to the building fabric during four decades of inhabitation obscure original intentions even further. The gradual alterations and everyday accumulation of ‘stuff’ are not inimical in spirit but represent acts of maintenance and territorial appropriation, fuelled by genuine investments in ideas of home. Nevertheless the modification of original features, sometimes beyond recognition, points to a deeper misalignment between architectural intentions, administrative authority and popular taste.