Demolitions and redevelopments of social housing from 1950s-1960s English Brutalism have galvanized an upsurge of interest on the architecture of this era and its key ideas. However, this is often restrained to architecture and to postwar Britain. Here, we contradict both aspects, emphasizing the implications of those ideas in urban design and morphology; and presenting a case-study located in a different context – Greater Lisbon.
Indeed, the emphasis on raw materials integrated a larger vision of urban expansion or reconstruction using industrialized elements and types of buildings or public spaces capable of mass-(re)production. Construction materials and industrial techniques laid at the basis of an architectural aesthetic, but also of a new approach to urban design.
While Portuguese cities did not suffer war destruction, by the mid-20th century they presented problems of housing shortage and dereliction, worsening as industrialization advanced. In the mid-1960s, ICESA, a construction company, introduced housing urbanization through industrialized heavy prefabrication, supported by research developed at the National Laboratory for Civil Engineering, who evaluated the design of housing spaces and several construction aspects.
The first ICESA’s scheme experience started in 1965, at Santo António dos Cavaleiros, a town in the Lisbon periphery, partly for private market and partly for social housing. The social housing project was later reproduced in other locations: Vialonga, another peripheral town, and Quinta do Morgado, within the Lisbon city. These were built by making use of industrialized elements and repeated typologies, echoing British ideas of 1950s-1960s, but also allowed to test its limits. Is a housing urbanization repeatable? How much morphological diversity can be obtained from a limited set of elements?
A comparative morphological analysis of the three above identified ICESA urbanizations, aims to target such questions and understand these examples and their underlying ideas to contribute to inform future processes of housing urbanization.