Title: Vernacular, Conservative, Modernist: The Uncomfortable ‘Zone 6’ (Algarve) of the Portuguese Folk Architecture Survey (1955-1961)
Authors: Costa Agarez, Ricardo #
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: ESAP-CEAA
Host Document: To and Fro: Modernism and Vernacular Architecture pages:31-50
Abstract: To this day, part of the aura surrounding the ‘Inquérito à Arquitectura Regional Portuguesa’ (1955-1961) in Portuguese architectural culture stems from the narrative of resistance constructed around it. According to such narrative, the authors of this survey on vernacular building traditions would have countered perceived official stereotypes for regional architecture and set out to prove that ‘folk architecture was, like all “true architecture”, functionality.’ They would have, therefore, designed the project to fit their own post-war modernist agendas. Dismantling preconceptions on regional features, demonstrating diversity and integrating modern architecture with the long-span lineage of vernacular tradition were essential aims of the survey, shared by all its participant teams. Yet, these goals were not always easy to pursue.
By looking at the work of the ‘Zone 6’ team in Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, this text will discuss the challenges placed by a specific building identity, historically charged and visually enticing, on the survey’s stated and unstated purposes. With its idiosyncrasies, Algarve seems to have been valuable in rendering national diversity more dramatic and enabling a clearer contrast between extremes, thus countering claims to homogeneity; an instrumental view that in fact echoed other, apparently quite disparate initiatives, earlier in the century. Furthermore, Algarve’ ‘vernacular’ features were uniquely tempting to both conservative and modernist eyes, and the survey placed them under the aestheticised look that, as much as the authors attempted to downplay it, permeated the entire work – and, in the case of Algarve, was often not so far from the superficial, stereotyped views those authors condemned as trite vulgarisations. Finally, there was the embarrassing matter of external decoration: an inextricable part of Algarvian building tradition that hardly fitted modernist tenets, it was sensed as problematic and framed in terms that echo those with which, twenty years before, other Mediterranean vernaculars were recorded.
ISBN: 978-972-8784-47-8
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: AHb
Appears in Collections:Non-KU Leuven Association publications
# (joint) last author

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