My recent posts at World-Architects


Monday, March 18, 2013

Book Review: Renovação Praça do Toural, Alameda de São Dâmaso e Rua de Santo António, Guimarães 2010 - 2012

Renovação Praça do Toural, Alameda de São Dâmaso e Rua de Santo António, Guimarães 2010 - 2012 by Nuno Miguel Borges
Nuno Miguel Borges, 2012
Hardcover, 294 pages (text in Portuguese and English)

Since 1985 one or more cities in the European Union are selected each year to be a Capital of Culture. Events are held throughout a city's given year, ensuring an influx of visitors from the rest of the EU. In anticipation, cities undertake urban improvements, in some cases commissioning iconic architecture—the Kunsthaus Graz is a good case in point. For Guimarães, Portugal, which shared Capital of Culture duties in 2012 with Maribor, Slovenia, improvements focused on the renovation of three public spaces: Praça do Toural, Alameda de São Dâmaso and Rua de Santo António. The three interconnected spaces—respectively a plaza, tree-lined promenade, and one-way street—define a horseshoe-shaped swath in the center of the city.

This book by Nuno Miguel Borges tells the story of the transformations of the public spaces through a history, interviews with key players, and numerous photographs before, during, and after construction. Depending on the reader's familiarity with Guimarães, one area will take precedence in lending an understanding of the place. For somebody not at all knowledgeable about the city (like me), the photographs by Rita Burmester are the most valuable. They capture a visual sense of place that conveys spatial experiences through objects (the trees, the paving, the surrounding buildings) and people—the occasional onlookers of the construction process are valuable in this regard. The history by António Amaro das Neves, as well as some of the interviews, requires some knowledge of the place to be fully appreciated. These texts give background on the place and the process of its transformation, but visual diagrams for giving bearings and other information (determining which space is which is up to the reader to discover) would have overcome some of this local bias.

As the cover makes clear, the focus of the project and the book is the Praça do Toural, a trapezoidal space anchored by an old fountain and renovated with new paving that looks like a map of the town. Architect Maria Manuel Oliveira reused the old pavement and created a graphic that invites people to traverse the space in different ways—strolling along the "streets," moving on diagonals, etc. Artist Ana Jotta helped with the paving but is most proud of a long railing that straddles the patterns and gives people a place to stop and lean, taking in the flow of people in the plaza; it's like a private balcony moved to the public realm of the plaza. The transformations of the plaza, street, and promenade are subtle, best appreciated with a slow study of the photographs and the interviews (they gain more value as the photos are absorbed). It's an urban undertaking Guimarães should be proud of, and Borges's handsome book aids in extending the appreciation well beyond 2012 and the city's Capital of Culture.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam.