The Stubborn Urbanism of a Medieval Portuguese Village
September 27, 2011
Photo: flickr user Riafoge
In his classic book The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch explores the notion of the visual construction of the city. The city, according to Lynch, was perceived as a vast assemblage of underlying urban elements–specifically, paths, nodes, landmarks, edges, and districts–which may or may not correspond to physical environments. This “mental map” was indicative of the city’s capacity to create a satisfying physical and psychological milieu. These ideas were adopted by New Urbanists of the last few decades, who whimsically populated nostalgic suburban enclaves with tinny towers (landmarks) and flimsy monuments (nodes). At the other end of the spectrum, there’s this medieval town in Portugal, which was planned in, on, and around giant granite boulders. More images after the jump!
Monsanto, Portugal. Photo: flickr user urugallu
The ancient village of Monsanto is situated near the Spanish border on a rugged hill of large, converging boulders overlooking a valley below. The first settlements on the site can be traced to the 6th century, but most of Monsanto’s existing architecture dates back to the 16th century. Despite the inhospitable site, the town’s founders planted their churches and homes in and around the pockets of space afforded by the boulders, leaving them largely intact. Where they did carve into the rocks, they hewed out a sinuous network of streets by which residents navigate the town.
Photo: Marije, Peru eta Lili
Photo: flickr user vincentecamarasa
Church. Photo: Javier Habladorcito
Restaurant. Photo: flickr user afribrasil
Structures stand over and under the rocks, staircases wrap around the massive stone bodies, and protruding stones form nodes of place and activity. All these formations foster the psycho-empirical conditions of Lynch’s ideal city, where, in the case of Monsanto, the logic of urbanism has been fully integrated with existing geological terrain to yield a vivid urban experience.
The Portuguese facility with building with large stones is also evident in this hulking house in Fafe, Portugal. The actual residence, a small concrete shell adorned with a red clay tile roof, is sandwiched between two boulders. The concrete blends into the surface of the rocks, as if the house were chiseled from one giant rock.
Photos: Feliciano Guimarães