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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