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T D S R V O L .

1 9 9 0 2 3 3 4
The Portuguese built a maritime empire during the ffteenth and sixteenth centuries that
incorporated settlements along the coasts of Brazil, Africa, India and the Far Eat. The
architecture and urban spaces of these settlements refected the dual infuence and interbreeding
of Portuguese and local cultures. Overseas Portuguese towns shared the same moels of
reference. These were the medieval towns of Portugal, particularly Lisbon and Oporto, which
contained features that can be traced back to the Muslim city and to European planned
frontier towns of the middle ages. Local cultural infuences were felt at the level of
architecture, both in the adaptation of Portugues models to local materials and climatic
conditions, and in the adoption by Portuguee builders of local typologies, forms, and moels
of reference. The Portuguese left their mark in many parts o the world, most particularly in
architectural tradition. Knowledge and experience gained by locl bu ilders from the Portugues
five centuries ago has in many places ben passed down from generation to generation, and has
reulted in the preservation of building prototypes that embody toay's traditional architecture.
For Europeans, the Portuguese voyages of the period were an important component of the
Renaissance and the emergence of a new vision of man.
Manuel Texera is an Assistant Professor at L 'Acadami a Nac. Belas
Artes, Lisbon, Portgal.
The conquest of Ceuta in Morocco in 1415 marked the
beginning of Portuguese expansion overseas. During the
next two centuries Portugal built and kept a maritime
empire in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans that
brought an effective monopoly of navigation and commerce
along te coasts of Africa, India, the Far East ad Brazil.
Three successive Papal Bulls, in 1452, 1455 and 1456,
confirmed this monopoly. Prince D. Henrique -Henry
the Navigator -was the initial stategist of the enterrise;
he was also the Grandmaster of the Order of Christ, and
gave tis Order spiritual jurisdiction overall ld disoverd
by the Portuguese. The spirit of crusade against the infidels,
24 • TDSR 2
the expansion of the Christian faith, and more down-to­
eath commercial objectives were the main forces behind
the ambitious enterprise of the Portuguese Descobertas in
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
For historians, the Portuguese expansion must be set within
the context of the European Renaissance, of which it was an
essential component. Georges Lefebvre has said, "De cene
aventure elargie, multiseculaire (a nos yeux), la Renais­
sance -quel a ete en gros Ie fait essen tiel? Bien sur les
grandes decouvertes."l An important contribution of Por­
tugal to the Renaissance was a new vision of man brought
abut by contact with new races and civilizations. The
tendency of the Portuguese to mix with the peoples they
encountered led to a miscegenation, or interbreeding, of
cultures. This trend is clearly visible in the architecture and
urban spaces of the Portuguese colonial settlements. The
composite moels produced in them often were accepted as
new types of taditional architecture, replacing previously
established models.
The trade in gold, produced in the regions south of the
Sahara -and after 1442, the slave trade -were the main
initial objectives of Portuguese merchants. Portugal was
able to divert to its ships a substantial share of the tans­
Saharan tade formerly held by the Tuareg caravans. But
afer the 1480s, the objective bcame India, especially the
discovery of a seaway around Africa. Until this time the
spice tade had been in the hands of Muslim merchants,
who sailed the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea and who
taveled overland to the Mediterranean coast, and Venetian
merchants, who shipped fom the Mameluke ports of Syria
and Egypt to Europe. The commercial objective of Portu­
gal was to take hold of this monopoly, and in 1498 the feet
of Vasco d Gama reached Calicut.
As Portugal progressed in its search for a seaway to India,
a string of forts and factories were built along the coasts of
Africa and Arabia. These settlements were located at
strategic points, serving either as bases from which to
protect the sea routes, ports of call for provisioning ships,
or tading stations. Some evolved into urban settlements,
and their urban stucture and architecture came to refect
both Portuguese culture and the cultures of the societies
Portugal came into contact with.
In 1 500, Pedro Alvares Cabral discovered Brazil on his way
to India. The colonization of this land was postoned for
many years because of the involvement of the Portuguese
Crown in the Indian trade, the gold of Guinea, and the wars
with Morocco. But during the second half of the sixteenth
century the casual tade with Amerindian tibes was re­
placed by the cultivaton of, and commerce in, sugar cane.
Waves of Portuguese immigrants settled in Brazil after
1 570, giving rise to numerous settlements along the coast.
Some of these rapidly evolved into administative, com­
mercial or agricultural centers.
In India, the Portuguese founded a number of important
cities on bth coasts. These were fortresses and adminis­
trative and commercial centers for the tade in Asian spices.
From India, the Portuguese taveled as far as Japan, where
in 1561 the village of Yokoseura was founded with the
agreement of the local shogun. In the intervening half
century the Portuguese built a maritime empire tat effec­
tively controlled commerce in the Atlantic and Indian
Oceans and in the China seas. Portuguese settlements were
built along the coasts of Brazil, Afica, Arabia, Persia,
India, Sri Ln, Burma, Siam, the Malay Peninsula, te
East Indies, China and Japan.
Portuguese settlements fell into three main categories: the
factory, the fort and the city. These types were not tightly
fixed; rather, they tended to evolve one from the other.
Factories were trading stations that sometimes consisted of
little more than a house surrounded by a palisade. They
were located in privileged trading places, often at the mouth
of a river, making communication with the hinterland
possible. Forts were often fortifed trading stations that
grew to accommoate a number of settlers' houses (FIG. 1).
Alteratively, forts were built in locations where no com­
mercial activity was justifed but where stategic planning
called for a supply of food and water or a port of call for
ships in distress. Most cities evolved fom factories or
forts, particularly in places where commercial activity was
intense. These settlements were founded by the state, or
were built under patonage of the state, and they became
stepping stones for the foundation of new Portuguese cities
in ever more distant places.
An importnt characteristic of towns built by the Portu­
guese overseas, and of the Portuguese colonial expansion
in general, was the gradual way that it ocurred. Portugal
underwent the occupation of the Moors for over five
centuries. When the Moors
werefmallyexpelledin 1249,
they left bhind deep marks
on both the architecture and
urban character of the
county' s south. Portuguese
cities in Alentejo and Algarve
were not much different fom
Moroccan cities in terms of
physical character or popu­
lation (which included
Mors, Christians and Jews).
Thus, when the Portuguese conquered Ceuta in 1415, they
were not faced with an alien experence. They met a
familiar reality with regard to people, urban spaces, climate
and geography -a situation that contibuted to their easy
adapttion to North Afica.
But Morocco was just the first step. Portuguese seamen
progessed from one region to the next without discontinu­
ity, allowing progressive adaptaton to ecological and cul­
tural conditions in Africa, Asia and South America. This
patter of adaptation helps explain the remarkable continu­
ity of tradition that Portuguese colonial cities display de­
spite the immense variety of contexts in which they appear.
The different ecological conditions in which Portuguese
overseas cites were built, the different cultures they faced,
and the specific roles they were assigned gave each specific
"local" characteristics. Yet every Portuguese overseas city
had the same moels of reference, predominantly drawn
from Lisbon -the metopolis -which gave them an un­
mistakable "national" character. This did not mean that
builders and architects took plans for the new settlements
overseas with them. Quite the contary, the moels of
reference were known by heart, and in every place were
feely adapted to local conditions. Despite the variety of
such local conditions and the apparently casual way the
new settlements were stuctured, the urban tadition was
strong enough to ensure a remarkable structural identity
between Portuguese settlements.
Portuguese colonial settlements, either trading stations,
forts or cites, were the instruments of a global strategy of
domination of the seas. Tey
were located in key coastal
loations, either ' to service
and secure the sea lanes or to
tap important sources of
commerce. Whenever pos­
sible, they were builton hilly
land, thus maintaining the
castrensian tadition of de­
fense on high ground that
dated to pre-Roman times.
The settements were basi­
cally defensive nuclei, adapted to the morphology of the
land; their main purpse was the contol of territory. When
fortfied places were associated with commercial activities
on the seashore or on the margin of a river, they were
organized on two levels: the port and commercial activities
at sea level and the administrative buildings, basic institu­
tions, and most of the housing on high ground. The two
areas were connected by a more or less staight road that
climbed the hilI, and in time would become the main street
of the settlement, the so-called Rua Direita.
The construction of an original citadel on the eminence of
a mount was a chief characteristic of the metropolitan
model of reference of these overseas settlements. In
Oporto, in Portugal, the original castrum was located on top
of a hill. The military character of the settlements was clear.
Both Oporto and Lisbon were surrounded by defensive
walls that had contained, successively, the Roman, Visi­
gothic, Muslim, and Christian cities. Also, both Lisbon and
Oporto, the ultimate references of colonial city builders,
were organized on two levels, uptown and downtown -a
structure that would be adopted whenever pssible over­
Within the fortified city, the best places, usually the top of
thehills, were reserved for public buildings-the goveror's
palace, the town hall, the hospital, the misericordia (the
public assistance building), and major churches and con­
vents. These buildings were solidly built, and they gave the
city a sense of community. They also played an important
role in organizing urban space. Together with the informal
squares associated with them, they became focal pints for
the development of the urban tissue. The city was stuc­
tured by the progressive articulaton of these isolated nu-
RG. 1. The basic setement forofCoriate, GulfofOman, seventeenth centur.
26 • TDSR 2
clei. The irregular trajectories of the
streets connecting them were dictated by
their apparently casual location within
the urban stucture. But, in fact, there
was nothing casual abut their locations.
These corresponded to a stict order of
society and to established relations of
power btween institutions.
This was the taditonal stucture of the
Portuguese medieval city as rebuilt over­
seas. In Brazil, as elsewhere, the Portu­
guese re-created their European world.
S. Salvador da Bafa, which was the capi­
tal of Brazil from 1 549 to 1763, was a
faithful replica of Lisbon and Oporto.
Located atop a high scarp dominating a
vast expanse of water, it was surrounded
by fortified walls. Its hilltops were domi­
nated by churches and palaces, while
commerce took place at the lower level
along the quays.2
RG.2. Lisbon of te Orient Goa, westcoastoflndia, late seventeent centr.
Goa, the political, commercial and reli­
gious capital of the Portuguese in Asia, is
ture and spatial characteristic of a Portu­
guese colonial city (FIG. 2). By the end of
the sixteenth century it had a ppulation
of nearly 30,00people, and it had been
dubbed the Lisbon of the Orient because
of its close resemblance to that city. In a
loation strangely similar to Lisbon' s on
the left margin of a river, Goa presented
an irregular semicircular plan. Its steets
described more or less symmetical and
concentric arcs centered on the down­
town aea. By the river were the quays,
the arsenal, the customs house, and -

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most significantly -the palace of the
RG. 3. lisbon, late sixteenth centr. The basic reference of cit builders.
Viceroy. A large steet, the Rua Direita (or High Steet),
was bth stucturally and functionally the main street.
Important commerial functions tok place along it, and it
connected a number of squares where significant edifices
were located. In the main square of Goa the Senatorial
Palace, the Archbishop' s Palace, and the Cathedral figured
prominently. The College of S. Paulo, run by the Jesuits,
the misericordia, the Hospitl, and other churches and con­
vents were also situated in privileged loations, constitut­
ing other foal points i the urban structure.
Representations of Lisbon of the early sixteenth century
show the most prominent hill occupied by the old castle and
the Royal Palace, the seats of temporal power (FIG. 3). To the
west and east, on top of the other hills, were the monasteries
ofGra�a, Carmo, Trindade and S. Vicente. On an interme­
diate plane, the representations show the housing tissue in
which symbolically distinguished collective buildings were
set: the hospital, the tribunal, the jail, monasteries, and
parish churches. The cathedral, although built half way up
the hilI, was given partcular prominence so that it inter­
fered in the profile of the city. The first plane, by the river,
was ocupied by the commercial zone and the prt with its
wharfs, dokyards and warehouses, among which the cus­
toms house stood out. The town walls were highly visible,
and the old castle appeared as the key element of the
defensive structure of the city, correspnding to the impor­
tance that was awarded to secular power in the defense of
the city. Only the two main squares of Lisbn -Rossio
and Terreiro do Pa�o -were represented. In Rossio were
loated the hospital and a second Royal Palace. In Terreiro
do Pa�o were located the market, the docks, the granary,
and, most importntly, the Casa da India, the warehouse
where all the spices and merchandise fom India was
stored. Thus, at the beginning of the sixteenth century the
vertical order of society was apparent in the graphic repre­
sentation of Lisbon: the prominence of royal power, the
spiritual power of churches and convents compting with
it, and the subrdinate role of commerce. Later in the
century, at a time when trading activities gained an increas­
ing importance in the life of the city and the county as a
whole, the Royal Palace would b built by the river -the
Paro da Ribeira -in the heart of the maritime zone.
One notices in these representatons the same basic stuc­
ture and the same key elements that were present when new
cities were built overseas. Overseas cities were organized
on different levels, the highest correspnding to its domi­
nant secular and religious buildings, the lowest reserved for
its maritime and commercial activities. Great importance
was given to defense, as manifested in the choice of an
elevated loation and the constuction of town walls. Promi­
nence was accorded to community buildings. The squares
around which these buildings were located bcame focal
points in the organization of the urban stucture. And the
Rua Direita played a stuctural role in connecting the prt
and the commercial area to the main square.
Basic characteristics of this somewhat informal structure
can be taced back to the Muslim city. During their long
presence in Portugal, from the eighth t the thirteenth
centuries, the Moors left their imprint on the urban space
and architecture of many cities they occupied or founded.
Whereas the basic element of the Roman city was the street,
organized in a checkered patter, the basic unit of the
Muslim city was the house. The layout of the street was not
defined bforehand as in the Roman cit; it resulted from
the progressive joining of houses. This, the introverted
style of life, and the necessities of defense also contibuted
to the intimate character of the steets-winding lanes with
different gauges and profiles, from which smaller streets
branched out, often as L-shapd alleys giving access to
small clusters of houses. Climatic conditions further deter­
mined that the streets be narrow and shaded. The houses
were tured inwards, and the rare openings into the street
were protected by elaborate screens and blinds.
Muslim concepts of urban space and architecture were still
very much alive in Portuguese cities of the sixteenth cen­
tury, and the urban spatal concepts of the Moors were
important to the urban references and life experiences of
those who built the new settlements overseas. Brazilian
cities of the sixteenth century were in all aspects similar to
medieval Portuguese cities, with narrow, irregular steets,
blind alleys, Moorish arches, and balconies protected by
wooden blinds -the muxrabis.3 These last, in particular,
similar to veiled faces, clearly reflected the Moorish infu­
ence that was exported to Brazil.
But the organic, somewhat irregular city was not the only
model of reference available to Portuguese city builders.
New kinds of settlements also emerged during this priod,
planned frontier towns surrounded by walls and built in
elevated places. Despite the iregularity of the places in
which these new towns were built, their plans were regular,
following a geometic patter. In Portugal a number of
such towns were built in the early fourteenth century,
particularly in Alentejo. Among these were Monsaraz,
Redondo and Vila Vi�osa. The main stuctural element of
these towns was a cental street, the Rua Direita, that
crossed the town longitudinally, connecting two dors
opened in opposite walls of the town (or connecting the
main door of the town with the castle at its opposite
extreme). A small square was opned along this main street
at the center of the town, where the church, tribunal, and
other important collective buildings were located. Secon­
dary steets were built parallel to, or at approximately right
angles to, the main steet, creating a regular urban patter.
Whenever a new town was built and there was enough
centalized power t control its development, such geomet-
28 • TDSR 2
ric patters were imposed. This was a radically different
kind of urban growth from that generated around informal
church and palace squares. Even so, the stuctural role of
the main steet in both types of development suggests a
continuity. Even the apparently most casual urban areas
had a certain degree of planning and contained references
to the more erudite forms of urban stucture that would b
fully developd in the next century.
When new cities did not develop slowly fom forts or
tading sttions, but instead were built rapidly, tradition
was abandoned and Renaissance ideals were embraced.4
This happened particularly in India where a compromise
between medieval and Renaissance concepts was estab­
lished. Damao and Ba�aim, built in the second half of the
sixteenth century on the west coast of India, show a regular
checkered patter of steets surounded by bastioned walls
that clearly denote erudite Renaissance influences (FIG. 4).
Nevertheless, the center of Damao contains a fortess, a
reminder of the taditional stuctur of the Portuguese
medieval city, instead of the regular squae characteristic of
Renaissance ideals.s
The urban stuctures ofPor­
tuguese oversas settlements
do not fall into pure types.
The Renaissance ideal ap­
pears combined wit medie­
val patters in a work of syn­
thesis. Each settlement de­
notes a mixture of taditional
dite elements. These vary
depending on the tme of
their constuction, the fact
of their evolution either fom
previous settlements or vir­
gin territory, and the difer­
ent political attitudes and
strategies that govered them. The cities of Brazil, which
had deep roots in Portuguese medieval tadition, were
adequate to a policy of occupation that was made slowly
during the sixteenth century. In India, on the contary, it
was necessary to proceed much faster and to mark an
effective military and political presence to protect the
commerce in spices. Cities in India had to be built rapidl y
and effectively to defend against Muslim traders and make
a show of diplomatc activity and ostentation toward
powerful Indian Maharajas. Cities inspired by Renaissance
ideals flfilled these objectives appropriately.
Ilha de Mo�ambique on the east coast of Afica was first
visited by the Portuguese in 1498 on their way to India. It
soon became a mandatory port of call for ships on the Indian
route. It offered protecton against the monsons and, most
importantly, was an important center for the tade in gold,
with which Asian spices could b bought in India. All the
gold, silver and ivory that had been traded for cloth, metal
artifacts, and miscellaneous items on the coast of Mo�am­
bique had to pass through Ilha de Mo�ambique. The
strategic importance of Ilha de Mo�ambique to the Indian
tade was emphasized by the fact that after 1509 it was
administered fom Goa and its goveror was subrdinate to
the Viceroy of India.
For decades the Portuguese
fough t the Arab S wahilis for
trade supremacy in the area.
In 1 507 the trading station
was built. At first, this was
only a small fort built with
stones fom ships' ballast,
around which appeaed the
Portuguese settlement and
the first chapls. But the
continuing reaction of Ar­
abs and Indians to the Portu­
guese intusion in the Indian
Ocean soon made necessary
the construction of heavier
fortifications. The fortess
of S. Sebastiao was begun in
1558 on the norther tip of the Ilha, and by the end of the
sixtenth century the tading station was an important
settlement with to fortresses, a hospital, churches, con­
vents, and many houses (FIG. 5). Religious orders played an
imprtant role in the development of the settlement. Among
them were the Dominicans, the Jesuits, and the monks of S.
FIG.4. Te Renaissance infuence: Damio, west coast of India, begin·
ning of te seventeent centr.
Joao de Deus, to whom large donations ofland were given.
The Jesuits managed to become the owners of most rental
houses on the Ilha.
Ilha de Mo�ambique presented a very rich ethnic composi­
tion. There were three main factors behind this: the loca­
tion of the island near the Afican contnent, the important
role it played in the commercial network of the Indian
Ocean, and the integraton of the island into the larger
Portuguese empire.6 The
population consisted of
Bantus (the original inhabi­
tants of the island), Arab
merchants and seafarers,
Portuguese, mixed Portu­
guese-Indian Christan im­
migrants from Goa, and
Hindu and Muslim Indians.
Finally, ther was a constant
transit and settlement of
people from all the other
parts of the Portuguese
empire - from Macao,
Timor, West Africa and
Brazil. Althese groups left
their ethnic and cultural imprint on the Ilha. But in terms
of the urban form and the form of housing, the Portuguese
contribution predominated.
At the bginning of the Portuguese occupation, settlers'
houses were temprary constructions similar to loal ver­
nacular buildings bot in terms of form and in use of
materials. In the decades that followed, however, Euro­
pean houses began to be more solidly built and began to
distnguish themselves from local buildings. Nevertheless,
by the middle of the eighteenth century huts with palm leaf
(macutl roofs were still feely located among stone houses.
The basic stucture of the town was characterized by
narrow, iregular steets that connected the fulcral pints of
the urban network: churches, convents, the Jesuits' college,
the residence of the Captain-General, the hospital, and the
squares usually associated with them. Along the coast were
loated the commercial buildings. These faced both the
sea, for loading and unloading cargo, and the steet, where
goos were taded. The increasingly rapid development of
the town coincided with the establishment of the town
council in 1761 and the beginning ofland-leasing to private
individuals. By 1800 the town had grown considerably
toward the south, following the classical urban patter
typical of the time with regular blocks and broad, staight
steets. The cottages with straw roofs began to concentrate
in the souther part of the llha. By the end of the nineteenth
century there was a clearly differentiated European "stone­
built" town, and a "macuti" town for local inhabitants.
These were constucted of
different materials, had dif­
ferent forms, and occupied
different locations. The
stone-built town on the
north and the macuti town
to the south were sharly
divided by a line across the
One may conclude that in
the beginning of the Portu­
guese presence and in the
first centuries that followed
there was a great deal of
cultural assimilation. This
went as far as the adoption by the Portuguese of local
veracular house-forms and materials. Despite the pro­
gressive separation of the two basic housing typs, there
still persists an important element of kinship between them.
The basic plan-type has been preserved thrugh the years,
and, remarkably, it can be found in both types. In fact, the
basic arrangement of the plan is the same for all houses, old
and new, big and small, masonry or mud-built (FIG. 6). This
plan-type is not purely Portuguese or Arabian, Indian, or
Swahili. Apparently, it emerged as the most adequate
solution, taking into account the available local materials,
the loal climate, and the natural living conditions of the
island.? Nevertheless, one finds more than casual similari­
ties with house plans of veracular houses fom the south
of Portugal. Therefor, it is likely that the Portuguese
infuence was the strongest component of the cross-cultural
and ecological process that gave rise to it.
Exterally, the houses also reflect the multiple influences
represented in them, but the most notable influence comes
FIG. 5. Iha de MOfambique, beginning of te seventeent century. Te basic stucture of te
30 • TDSR 2
from Algarve, the souther region of Portugal. 8 Te houses
of Algarve have features that are very similar to those on the
Ilha: rendered and limed facades, detailed corices, white
paintd window and door surrounds, a composition of
facade with rectangular, well-proprtioned, rhythmically
placed windows, pilaster stips that emphasize comers, and
flat roofs for collecting rainwater (FIGS 7B). Arabian and
Indian features can also be found in the details of other
buildings, for example in church facades, but rarely in
houses. It is interally, in decoration and fuishings, that
the Indian influence was most clearly felt in the houses of
the IIha.
Like other towns built by Portugal in Brazil, the urban
layout of Olinda had its medieval roots imprinted in it. The
apparent disorder of the urban stucture was, in fact, a
FIG. 6. (left) Plan
in Iha de
RG. 7 (top right)
tpologies: Iha
de MOfambique,
RG. B. (bottom
right) Housing
planned organization that accorded to medieval principles.
Such principles, although not explicitly codifed, belonged
to a rich urban tadition, both Christan and Muslim, that the
architects and builders carried with them.
Olinda was founded in 1537 in the region of Perambuco,
the center of a vast hinterland of sugar plantations. Follow­
ing the Portuguese trdition, the top of a steep hill was
chosen for the site of the town despite its being five miles
from the sea. To compensate for this loation, the small
settlement of Recife was founded on a plain at the conflu­
ence of the Capaberibe and Bebribe Rivers. Recife pro­
vided the necessary fshing and port activities of Olinda.
Unlike Portuguese colonies that lived fom the sea tade,
the economic basis of Olinda was agriculture and the
industial activities related t the processing of sugar cane.
Nevertheless, its urban layout was basically the same as
other colonial cities. Importnt administative buildings
and monumental churches were located in prominent places,
structuring the urban space. There were clear affinities
with the urban structure of other cities, namely Goa and S.
Salvador da Baia.9 Recife, located on flat ground and with
limited functions mostly related to the prt and the domes­
tic needs of its workers, had a rather simpler layout. It
consisted of a checkered patter of nearly regular blocks
and steets around a central square where the church was
Both Olinda and Recife were destoyed following the
Dutch invasion of 1630. Of the two complementary settle­
ments, the Dutch preferred Recife, and they installed their
goverment there. The commercial and urban develop­
ment of Recife promoted by the Dutch meant that Olinda
lost its role as capital of Perambuco. To Olinda was
reserved the role of historical capitl,
allowing the crystallization of its ur­
ban structure in a way that was charac­
teristic of a model of urban develop-
these new areas in later yeas was not rare. Houses built in
Recife in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the char­
acteristic houses of toay' s Recife, had stong Portuguese
roots. They soon replaced, or were literally built upn,
what the Dutch left, further contibuting to the Portuguese
character of Recife and the effacement of the Dutch legacy.
The duality between Olinda and Recife is further expressed
in the house typologies ad architecture that grew up in
them. The houses of Olinda have their roots in the Portu­
guese rural tadition: thick stone wals, one or two floors,
stone comers, thresholds and jambs, a dominant horizon­
tality of line, hippd rofs, and the overall squat look of
Portuguese Baroque buildings (FIGS. 10, 1 1). This house-type
was fully developed in the large mansions built by planta­
tion owners.!O These mansions were direct heirs to the
country manors of noble landowners in Portugal. Since
Recife was rebuilt by the Dutch with a
strong defensive structure and a pre­
cise and erudite plan of orthogonal
blocks. The erudition of the Dutch
plan of Mauricio de Nassau repre­
sented (as far as Brazil was concered)
a new concept of urban space and
urban stucture radically different fom
Portuguese conceptions (FG. 9). After
the restoraton of the sovereignty in
165, the taditional practice ofPortu­
guese city-building was resumed.
Olinda's urban network, closely tied
to topgraphical conditions, had re­
mained unchanged, and it was rebuilt
following original principles. In
Recife, the regular Dutch layout was
maintned, but further developments
of the town were determined by the
FIG. 9. Te Dutch plan of Recife, Brazl1, late seventeenth century.
loation of new churches and the stucturing of squares in
close assoiation with them. The resultng urban tissue of
Recife is a mixture of erudite and organic growth, and, in
the end, is not altogether different from the layouts of other
Brazilian towns that occupied coastal areas adjoining their
original loations. The adoption of geometrical layouts in
Olinda was a center for a region of sugar planttons, it was
not surprising that this originally rural house-typ took root
there. The type was easily adapted to topical conditions
through local innovatons: higher ceilings, walls that did
not reach the roof, lattice windows, shady verandahs and
interal courtyards.
32 • TDSR 2
The houses of Recife are radically different. They are
rather slim, are built to five or six stories, and have narrow
frontages, high pitched slate roofs, and an extemely accen­
tuated verticality. The typical house of the merchant in
Recife combined a shop on the ground floor with dwelling
quaters aboveY This house-form derived from similar
types of structure in Portugal, particularly merchant houses
in Oporto. The slim houses of Recife are similar to the
bourgeois houses ofOporto bth exterally and in terms of
interal organization. Their interal order featured draw­
ing rooms on the first floor, dining rom and kitchen on the
top floor (on account of smells and the danger of fre), and
sleeping rooms in between. Accommodations for servants
were located in the attic. Stairs in the middle of the house
were illuminated by elaborate skylights (FIGS. 12, 13). The
houses of the poorer strata of society, both in Oporto and
Recife, were basically the same, although smaller and less
structured. A convergence of ecological, functional and
cultural factors led to the adoption of this house-type in
Recife. On the one hand, slim, tall buildings on narrow lots
were the obvious solution to a scarcity ofland. On the other,
a house-type that combined commercial and residential
FIG. 10. (top lef) Count manor in
FIG. 1. (bottom lef) Stately manor in Brazil.
FIG. 12. (below) Urban houses in Dporto.
FIG. 1. (facing page) The contnuity of
taditon: houses in Recife.
uses best fitted the needs of the merchats. The house of
Oporto, developed in similar circumstances, was easily and
successfully adopted.
The cul tural influence of one society on another, by itself,
does not rean much. Unless deliberately imposed, cultural
influences usually only take root if they find local ecologi­
cal, soial and cultural circumstances t which they can be
adapted - particularly i these are meaningful to the
society being influenced. One finds in Olind and Recife
two completely different typologies of housing that had
origins in Portugal. The house of Olinda, a town founded
by Portuguese nobility and the center of a rural area, was
heir to the tadition of a rural house-type. The house of
Recife, a mercantile city par excellence, was derived di­
rectly from the house of the merchant bourgeoisie in
Oporto. Both types had to fnd an intinsic logic with
respct to loal conditions as well as adequate grounds for
development. Neither occurred as the result of blind
acceptance of available moels.
The cultural influence of architectural models is a two-way
proess, and we find a good illustration of this in the Casas
de Brasileiros built in Oporto and throughout the north of
Portugal in the nineteenth century. These were the houses
of former Portuguese immigrants to Brazil who retued
rich to their homeland. These mansions, no matter how
naive or over-decorated, were the heirs of the Baroque
manors that had been introduced from Portugal to Brazil
three centuries before. In this case the tradi tion was brough t
back t Europe, rich with acculturations as a result of
meetings and miscegenatons with other cultures in Brazil.
The marks of the Portuguese presence are felt to this day in
many parts of the world in religion, myth, tradition, lan­
guage, a and architecture. Of these influences, the build­
ing activities of the Portuguese had the greatest impact.
This accounts for the persistent influence of Portuguese
designs and building techniques in ppular architecture. In
many parts of the world Portuguese buildings were the first
durable homes of the common folk. Aside fom temples,
palaces and aristocratic residences, in many places no built
remains have been identified previous to the Portuguese
presence. Knowledge and experience in the building
trades, acquired fom the Portuguese nearly five centuries
ago by local builders, have ben passed down from genera­
tion to generation. This has often corresponded with the
preservation of building prototypes that embody today's
veracular architecture.
Material realities and specificity oflocal culture led in each
Portuguese colonial settlement to a symbiosis of a unique
character. Local ecological conditions in their broadest
sense were responsible for transformations in the built
environment, bth through the adapting of Portuguese
models t loal materials and climat, and the adopting of
loal typologies, forms, and models of reference. The
composite models thus elaborated were often accepted as
new types of veracular architecture, and came to replace
previously established moels. These models were in tu
carried to other places where they became archetypes in the
creation of new forms. Such new veracular forms were to
a large extent the result of stimulant contacts with other
cultures and values of reference. The transformations the
34 • TDSR 2
Portuguese brought in this field are further evident in the
continued use of Portuguese words in .the building tades in
many places where Portuguese settlement ended centuries
ago and where Portuguese is no longer spoken.
All these things are strong reminders of the penetation 9f
Portuguese culture around the world. The Portuguese were
the first Wester society most poples of Afica, Asia, or
South America came into contct with. These contacts
were the first meetngs btween European and Afican or
Asian concepts, and led to great cultural change on both
defense and emporiums of commerce, they laid the gound­
work for cultural transfer and the symbiosis of peoples and
civilizations. New concepts of space and architecture were
introduced through them. The new fnctional meanings
associated with these concepts carried an implicit new
Colonial settlements were vehicles for the tansmission of
Portuguese culture and civilization. Besides being poles of
The architecture and urban spaces built by the Portuguese
overseas are probably the clearest evidence of the impor­
tantrole the voyages of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
played in the meeting and cross-fertilization of the cultures
of the East and the West. That exprience, of crucial
importnce for both soieties, was in the West an essential
component of the European Renaissance.
I would like to express my thanks to Prof.
Augusto P. Brandio -Ana Figueirdo, Isabel
G. Lucas, Margarida Valla, NUno Ludovice,
and Paula Ramos -who dedicated much time
to the study of this subject and organized the
First Congress of the Lusitanian Built
Patrmony i the World, i March 1987. Al
the abve-metioed colleagues were most
generous i their help.
1 . G. Lefebvre, L Naissance d
L'Historiagraphie Moderne (paris:
Flaario, 1971), p. 53.
2. M.T. Chic, "A 'Cidade Ideal' do
Renascimento e as Cidades Portuguesas da
India," Garcia d Orta -Revista da Junta d
Missoes Geogrtficas e da investigafao d
Ultramr Numero espcial (1956), pp. 319-
3. P.F. Santos, Formcao de Cids R
Brasil Colonil (Coimbra: G.fica de
Coimbra, 1968), p. 19.
4. Chic. "A 'Cidade Ideal .
. .
• p. 324.
5. Santos. Formcao de Cids. p. 40.
6. Secretera de Estado d Cultura de
M�ambique. lIh de MOfambique (Maputo.
n.d.), p. 16.
7. Ibid « • p. 6.
8. Ibi .• p. 58
9. M.J.M. Rorigues. Olinda e Recife. Um
situfao de Polaridde no Urbnismo
Colonial Portuguis (lisboa. 1979). p. 77.
10. E.V. de Olivera and F. Galhano. Casas
Eguisas do Porto e Sobrados do Recie
(Recife: Pol Editorial S/A. 1 986). p.22.
1 1. Ibid «• p. 24.
T Ü S R V O L . , 9 9 0 3 5 " 4 7
This paper aims at giving tangible meaning to the concept of traditional Chinese urban form,
to begin to dispel the vaguenes that has hampered eforts by Chinese (and other) architects
and urban designers to draw lessons from Chinese urban tradition. It describe the formal
structures of the pre-industrial cities of Southeast China, including Nanjing,Suzhou, Hanghou
and Shanghai as examples, and it formulates seven characteristic of Chinese traditional cities:
the influence of an orthogonal model, the absnce of the "suare," the prevalence of the walled
residential street, the definition of two city centers, the establishment of the canal system, the
dominance of low buildings and evenly distributed small open spaces, and the use of tower and
topography to generate town identity.
Since the cities of Southeast China represented the fnal stage in the development of
urban areas in pre·industrial China, the paper can claim to be & general study of traditional
Chinese urban form. The determination of seven characteristics was not based on any
property of the number seven; the author imagines that additional formal characteristics (with
similar value and significance) may be discovered by other authors. The characteristic have
been defined in contrast to features of the European medieval and Renaissance city, becaus
most architects and urban designers are acquainted with this system. After preenting each
characteristic, the paper explores its social, economic and cultural implications. The paper
concludes by noting fve traditional Chinese values embodied in the formal characteristics.
Pu Miao. a Chinese Architect amd planner, currenty resides in San
Francisco. Califoria, U.S.A
Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1978, Chinese
architects and urban designers have resumed debate on the
possibility of borrowing from China's built heritage to
design the environment of today. However, the use of the
term "taditional form" in these discussions remains vague.
Even though everyone involved seems to ba specific im­
ages of an old Chinese village or city in his or her mind, few

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