The transformation of a Lisbon urban block
Reading and designing with time
ABSTRACT: The city is a dynamic object in permanent evolution, which makes its physical changes a fatality, justified by the constant need for man to reinvent his urban environment. It means that the city urban form is made from an adaptation effort between the need for change and the preservation of the existing and legible urban matrix. The urban block is the physical object that best represents this extraordinary dynamic based on the constant and asynchronous movement of the elements that conform it. However, it is due to this dynamic, aligned with an absence of time perception, that the urban block has lost space as a defining element of the urban form. The loss of influence in the city design process, discernible in many of the urban conceptions of the twentieth century, matches with periods of greater formal uncertainty and urban solutions that deny one of the most important design tools available: time. To refuse the urban block is refusing the time, the safest place where we can read the intentions that guided the evolution of the city, where the urban block has repeatedly proven its ability to adapt to several types of buildings and the changing urban and architectural models. Thus, this study uses the city of Lisbon and one of its most representative urban blocks – the old Monumental Cinema Theater – to reveal the importance and usefulness of reading and designing the city with time. Methodologically, the work offers a morphological and diachronic reading of the urban block, exploring over time its different evolution processes and formal oscillations. Complementary, it intents to reveal in a more operative approach how time could be an essential adviser in the city design process. Designing city with time is searching for new compositional solutions that are not only compatible with the actual needs of urban living but, also, solutions capable of evolving and responding to future needs.
KEYWORDS: urban block, time, transformation, urban form, Lisbon