Europan Cascais

europanSite: Cascais (Portugal)

Date: Març 2006

Competition: Roger Subirà Ezquerra i Narcís Font Juan


The specific situation of the site in Cascais made us detect a clear problem that experiences this site as many other peripheral quarters of other cities; and the problem is continuity.


Once the antique Walls are knocked down, when you walk in the old part of a European city, one can see similarities between one and another building, and also between one street and the following one. It’s not in means of architectonic style but in terms of geometry of visual space (scale, density, quality…) and uses of the city. In a theoretic ideal city, if we draw a line from the city centre towards the outskirts we may see how this geometry and programs change gradually, as a transformation of built typologies related to their use, in the end city would lead us to countryside and natural space: from the city centre towards the no-city.

But this ideal walk does not exist. It’s difficult to think about an example of a European city where we can perfectly recognize this non-stopped transformation between the centre and the outskirts, the built and the natural. The presence of rivers, channels, mountains, trains, highways, big facilities and coast line deforms this foundational scheme. We can conclude that the superposition of this basic pattern and the specific conditions of the site draw what we can call the specific character of every city.

The position of the project site in its civic and environmental context is really specific: it is a peripheral situation in relation with the city centre, isolated by metropolitan highways (IC30 and A5) and beside the boundaries of the Natural Reserve of Sintra-Cascais, the new Cascais Hospital may be understood as an island in terms of centrality.

The construction of new devices in this isolated site and the use that the Cabreiro inhabitants are going to do of them try to establish a new centrality for those who already inhabit the area and those who are going to live in it. It is the opportunity to build a new centre for the new small city. The programme can respond to different necessities according to the diverse scales that we can find in the Cascais area. The new hospital, with a capacity of 235.000 annual visits, responds to a metropolitan scale. A kindergarten and a sports centre will only serve Cabreiro inhabitants.

That’s why we think the building of a new centrality is a must. But we also believe that it should respect the peripheral condition of Cabreiro district. Any massive intervention will make the town look like a suburbia area again (downtwonization), with any possibility of having facilities that serve to its immediate context. That’s why we have to avoid discontinuities that may create differences between the new settlement and the existing ones, trying to create transitions from actual uses and ways of living in the area and new uses that will be implemented. We wanted to establish a strategy to make compatible densification and the desired creation of new devices. We bet for a third interpretation of the diagrams that the Smithsons draw as an analysis of the meaning of the landscape.

Discontinuity must not appear in the horizontal relational plans, but it can also take place in vertical as a consequence of the superposition of different strips that respond to different positions in the Smithsons schemes. The activities in the centre- commercial uses, communications, services,… – will be in the lower level. The new population will inhabit the central level. The upper level is reserved to the production of energy and the accumulation of water, also allows the experience of a new contemporary built landscape, multiplying the use of ground floor that has lost its a condition of “private land”.

c o l o n i s a t i o n

We put together, in parallel, three different fragments which are necessary to make a city, but allowing much more possibilities of connection between them by their superposition. This way, routes of inhabitants and services become shorter. Thanks to the superposition there is no horizontal distance between them, mixing uses by superposition means also that any new use placed in the site doesn’t mean necessarily further occupation of ground floor. Obviously that may generate a non common management approach : allowing promiscuity, for example between public and private, which is normally accepted in its horizontal contact but not in vertical. If that was possible many immediate new relations will appear replacing movements, under our point of view this would be a primary step for a sustainable settlement.

3 necessary fragments of only one city:




From Cities for a small planet. Richard Rogers

Each one of these levels responds to its own requirements and, at the same time, to the ones of the upper and lower levels, as well as to its surrounding environment.

public level + dwelling level + infrastructural level

     Our proposal consists on colonizing the space with shadows to achieve an extensive public space. The first condition to dimension a specific space is the comfort versus the environmental conditions. The attraction power of the shadow of a tree is a first centrality claim, without programmatic; without neon.

The glade in the Woods vs. the oasis in the desert PUBLIC LEVEL

In Central and Northern Europe prevails the idea of the landscape as a mass, a wild wood full of dangers that makes human life imposible. When we think about reconverting an inhabitable space in a home implies the act of clearing. The void is understood as a human act, not a product of nature. Voiding means establishing a boundary between the wild outside and the comfortable inside where men feel safe. The result is a glade (fig1 and fig 2 in the next page).

In Southern Europe and in Africa the situation is the opposite; the landscape is like a void, like a desert where life is not possible, and the place itself has no meaning. The human act of settling down is related to action of filling and giving a sense, a meaning. The result is an oasis.

These two foundational interpretations of the settling down are related with the fear to the nature and to its dangers. To civilise means to enclose boundaries: in its interior, human activities will be developed.

The site in Cascais it’s a low density area; there is neither much vegetation nor human constructions. But we are not talking about a desert; we can consider it an urban void with few agricultural interventions. The construction of an oasis, permeable to the circulations and climatically comfortable, can make the site become a new attraction pole. If we include this public level with all the devices that the Cabreiro town needs, we will have a new centre.


fig.1 FRIEDRICH, David Caspar: The hunter in the woods, Private Collection, 1814.
Oil on canvas, 66 x 47 cm.


fig.2. FRIEDRICH, David Caspar: Traveler in front of the sea, Kunsthalle, Hamburg 1817-18.
Oil on canvas, 94,8 x 74,8 cm.

Tassellation DWELLING LEVEL (intermediate level)

There are 17 different geometric mechanisms to fill the level using only a regular geometric shape. They are all based in using different regular geometric shapes and combinations of the isometric transformations as translation, rotation and symmetry.

The most important fact to achieve full surfaces made with these shapes is the vertex where the adjacent pieces meet. We only have three possibilities:

s q u a r e s                                4 x 60º = 360º

e q u i l a t e r a l   t r i a n g l e s          6 x 60º = 360º

h e x a g o n s                                     3 x 120º= 360º

Basic Module_ The geometry of the liveable level is based in a 30º deformed square, with angles as 60º and 120º. This transformation makes the square possible to fill the level using the processes of rotation and copy. This basic module is a subdivision in three of a hexagon.

     Deformation_ Any deformation than any can experiment the basic module needs to be suitable with the neighbour ‘tile’. The neighbour tiles are exactly the same. This means that any deformation done in one of the sides of the shape will have a response in its complementary side in the same tile.

This is the process that graphic artist Maurits Cornelius Escher used in its series Ciclic Evolution from 1938. He shows a really developed ability to deform to the limit a shape, making it recognisable.

    Metamorphosis_ The next step that Escher applies in its engravings is the possibility of moving from one of these forms to another by making little changes (metamorphoses) in each of the figures side by side, making each step almost imperceptible in order to make the shape change completely from the first to the last of the series by accumulation of small changes. That’s what Escher implemented in Metamorphosis III,

an engraving from 1968 where, in a visual lecture from left to right, the shapes evolves from animals to geometric patterns and landscapes.


M.C.ESCHER: Metamorphose III (fragment): woodcut 19 x 680 cm. (1967-68)

Using the geometric mechanisms that Escher popularized, we have the opportunity to fill a level with only one shape. It can be gradually transformed to become a very different piece from the one we started with.


The possible continuity has to balance correctly the presence of voids and masses filtering light to the public level and to contribute to the formal adaptation of the proposed intervention. In the case of Cascais, the cluster has to be related at the same time with the Cabreiro district and also the new hospital that is being built next to the proposed site.


The patios that the different typologies leave as private exterior space are chained thanks to a rotation operation of the original piece. Every three units share a patio, much bigger than if each one had its own patio. This can be considered as a ‘privacy oasis’ inside the oasis that the new settlement becomes in the whole intervention in Cascais.


Apartament de Beistegui’s apartment. 1929-30


Le Corbusier’s drawing and photo

You can not see anything more than the sky and the clouds on a blue square; it’s like a breathing sensation, like a full ocean. Next to this grass carpet, a path to make a fire, during the fresher afternoons (the owner of the house, improvising but with criteria, has added a Spanish Louis XV style cornice) …MORALES, José: La disolución de la Estancia, Ed.Rueda, Madrid 2005. p.12

This patio is divided in three parts with fences. Those can be opened to enable the relation between the most immediate neighbours. This way we start a fabric of social relations that goes further of the patio and that can include also the relations with the same staircase level neighbours. This non-direct relationships will also take place in the lower plan.

The roots of the tree. The infrastructural level (upper level)

The upper level, the one directly related with the sun and the wind, is the dedicated to the production of energy and water accumulation. It also creates a new landscape which multiplies ground floor and enables to understand devices that make living in comfort possible, sharing space and activities with these devices is necessary to create an environmental public conscience , these devices that make living possible may not be hidden to users view.

As the construction of the roof of the dwelling level in different heights makes each of the units to have natural light. Through these plans the water goes to accumulators located in the basement level.

Programmatic Scheme

Our proposal In the different contracts must not be associated with a residential unit specifically but to be a rental contract periodically changeable.

Hauria de ser possible el canvi d’una tipologia a una altra que s’adapti millor als requeriments actuals de cada resident. Així, un resident que comencés habitant un petit estudi (T2) podria al cap d’un temps passar a habitar un apartament (T3) i posteriorment passar a habitar un habitatge familiar (T4) per posteriorment passar a habitar altre cop en un apartament (T3). En cap moment cap habitant estaria habitant en un lloc inconvenient.

We purpose a living system that can enable changing your living place tipology to the one with better joins with your An inhabitant who starts living in a small studio (T2) and

An inhabitant will never be living in an inconvenient place.

In the hotel and the dwelling for youth the stay is temporal meanwhile in all the other cases the stay is permanent. In this new fabric everybody is considered fluctuant.



-10-6-9-5-4-17Board 3 a3 300dpi