Built next to the campus of the University of Lisbon, the Entrecampos Square is the largest urban regeneration scheme under development in Lisbon since the Expo’98. Like so many other cities in Europe, Lisbon has been loosing inhabitants to the outer rings of the metropolitan area. In addition to macro-scale factors, like the declining birth rate and the persistence of rent-controlled contracts, the cost of housing in city centres has become prohibitive for young people. Fleeing in a desperate search for lower mortgages and affordable rents, younger generations have been sadly cast out of the city into regional commuting from the endless suburban sprawl. Lisbon lost something like 30% of its population in less than three decades, with its centre left almost exclusively to the waning old and the thriving affluent.
In an attempt to reverse, or at least to lessen these demographics, the municipality’s regeneration agency launched a large mixed-use programme in a void left vacant from the relocation of Lisbon’s vast wholesale market. Avoiding zoning mono-functionality, the ensemble has been conceived as a truly self-sustainable mixed-use scheme, incorporating the three main spheres of urban life –housing, offices and commerce– thereby allowing its continuous use across the day.
In addition to offices and street retail, 654 apartments, ranging from studios to three-bedroom units, were assigned for a public raffle between citizens below the age of 40. An astonishing 10,000 enrolled for the first 300 units available. Last but not least, the Art Forum, the city’s new contemporary art centre, is the civic building that aims to induce diversity and inclusiveness to the ensemble by drawing cultural life onto the site. In terms of public use, the project generates a continuous flow from the public sphere of square and streets into private inner courtyards, also of public use.
The plot is in a complex junction between the Forças Armadas and Alvaro Pais Avenues, two high-density traffic routes at the gateway of Lisbon’s CBD, standing next to its main transportation hub (buses, trains and subway). From an historical and morphological perspective, the site is on the boundary between the 19th-century perimeter block plan of Ressano Garcia, better known as “Avenidas Novas”, and a discontinuity zoning of late 1950s Athens Charter urbanism.
Despite the site’s steepness, an orthogonal grid generates two large residential blocks and partially completes a third one of offices. These 8-storey blocks form two sides of the large open square fronted by the Art Forum, the civic structure with the highest prominence in the plan. Finally, to accommodate the offices of the city’s regeneration agency, a slim tower punctuates the square as an element of exception.
As the neighbourhood’s condenser of social life, the square, with its restaurants, cafés and shops, outdoor cinema, flea market and book fairs, accommodates an underground parking for 3,500 cars. Towards south it forms a long stairway plinth that shelters the square’s pedestrian life from the harshness of peripheral car traffic. Likewise, around the blocks, car circulation is confined to the outer perimeter of the ensemble, whilst inner streets are exclusively for pedestrians. This pedestrian space flows through archways into the blocks’ inner courtyards. Accessible at ground level, these public courtyards will be rented to small offices and open-door businesses in a self-controlled space that can be closed after-hours.