Guimarães is the birthplace of Portugal. UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is the 4th. most visited destination among the ones that received the title. “This is something extraordinary. (The title) is not for the excellence of a building, but for the uniformity of a set that crosses several ages”, explains the Portuguese architect Manuel Roque (Pitagoras Group), with whom we had the pleasure of walking through the streets and squares and learning about Guimarães.
In addition, Guimarães was the European Capital of Culture in 2012, due to its vast cultural programming, and also triggered new projects. One of the highlights is the José de Guimarães Arts Platform, designed by Roque, which is also responsible for several other buildings in the city.
But it was not always so. About 40 years ago, the historic center was abandoned and was even dangerous. Located in the Valley of River Ave, the city had its economy maintained by the textile industry, which disintegrated with the opening of the markets to Asia. “There was a depression and the city needed to find a new paradigm, through a rich historical heritage.” Gradually, the municipality revitalized the public spaces, starting with a few squares. The reconstruction of the buildings was done by private sector, who did so as a domino effect.
With the revitalization, the historic center once again functions as a living room of the city. Today, it is a tourist spot with restaurants, cafes and typical shops. But it is also inhabited, as Roque explains: “It is not a dollhouse or a lively Disneyland, people live here.”
Guimarães is aware of the use of the city, of finding small grocery stores along the way, for example. In opposition to the modern movement, which advocated the separation of functions, cities based on the human scale must embrace multifunctionality. “It is precisely the opposite of any model we know of, which is based on the use of the car. I go to the mall, then I go to the condominium, and between them, it’s no man’s land, it’s closed glass, it’s a car. This formulation of urban space has completely failed, this is the antithesis of what a city should be. The great mistake of the modern movement has to do precisely with the formulation of cities”, laments Roque, a great admirer of modern architecture.
The multifunctionality, the small traditional trades, the housing with the people that inhabited it before and others that may arise, the design that discourages the use of the automobile, the living squares, the small surprises along the way, the façade reliefs and urban arts, the flavors and typical sweets: these elements are essential for humanistic cities. “You do not have to create much more. The city is always a meeting point. “