University City of Coimbra, ‘tabula rasa’ as a Project Methodology




Portugal and its image experienced a re-foundation process in the 30s and 40s of the 20th century promoted for ideological propaganda, which expressed itself as a profound regulation of urban intervention, lead by the Ministry of Public Works and Communications. Simultaneously, the University of Coimbra, a national symbol and an overseas cultural exchange platform, had to follow that change for modernization, which represented the national capacity of entrepreneurship and evidenced the nation’s strength and power on the international political stage and also its global influence. The upper part of Coimbra, the Alta, suffered a significant transformation due to a process occurring from 1934 to 1975, manifesting it by turning into a mono-functional citadel. These transformations started in the 40’s, when several demolitions, determined in the master plan, marked the beginning of the works. The aim of this paper is to highlight the project’s purposes that were used throughout the process of transformations from that period of that part of the Alta in the University City of Coimbra (UCC), taking into account the role that public space assumed in the new urban spatial organization. Through analyses of the master plans of the University City works, it is possible to verify the connection and fusion between the university citadel and the city, that is, between the university space and its urban context. While, in Europe, tabula rasa was a consequence of the destruction caused by war, in Portugal it was a project methodology to achieve the necessary space for construction. That was quite evident in this case, where the “blank slate”, so precious for the creative process of the Modern Movement, was made possible due to an assumption of power by the state.


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Author Biographies

Joana Capela de Campos, DARQ, UC

Graduated in Architecture (2005) and Advanced Studies in Architecture (2014) at the University of Coimbra. Currently, she is developing her PhD research and producing research in cultural heritage and its policies in the field of architecture and urbanism especially concerning the University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia World Heritage Site. Research interests, subjects and topics: cultural heritage, historic urban landscape, stakeholders and urban development management policies and plans and vernacular architecture in Portugal. Member of the Organizing Committee of I Congresso Ibero Americano em Estudos de Paisagem: Conhecer para Proteger, Gerir e Ordenar Sustentavelmente, 5-6 april 2018, Sintra – Centro Cultural Olga Cadaval. Member of the Scientific Committee for I Colóquio Ibérico de Paisagem: O estudo e a construção da Paisagem como problema metodológico, 16-17 march 2017, Lisbon.

Vítor Murtinho, CES, DARQ-FCTUC

Vitor Murtinho is an Architect, Associate Professor at the University of Coimbra (UC), Portugal.  Since 1988 teaches Geometry and in Theory and History areas of the Degree Course in Architecture, and the Integrated Master’s Program in Architecture. Also teaches at the 3rd Cycles Studies, Advanced Studies in Architecture at the same university. Is senior researcher at the Center for Social Studies of the UC and have interests in the domain of Renaissance theory, architectonics of form and geometry. Since 2011 is Vice-Rector of the UC with responsibility for the built heritage. He is the author or co-author of about one hundred publications (books, books chapters, papers in scientific journals and in conference proceedings).