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Theoretical Papers

Vol. 6 No. 1 (2021): Visual Spaces of Change: photographic documentation of environmental transformations

Models, Plans, Clusters & Pine Trees Vila Nova de Santo André 1971-2021




As an odd case of urbanism Vila Nova de Santo André is the only city built from scratch in Portugal in the XX century, without any urban pre-existence. Conceived by political decision and framed by an ambitious industrial project, the Port of Sines, Vila Nova is located in an area of extensive pine forests, between Sines and Lagoa de St. André. Created in 1971 the Office of the Area of Sines (GAS) was the administrative body responsible for planning and implementing the different components of the project. Endowed with enormous expertise knowledge and economic resources, the enterprise suffered a significant setback with the 1973 international oil crisis and thereafter with the 25th April, 1974 Revolution. Political hesitations, setbacks and abandonment marked the entire Sines project until the GAS extinction in 1986.

The main intention of this essay is to confront and reposition the negativeness of Santo André new town. Perceived as a failure and a lost opportunity, the lack of knowledge that supports this prejudice stems from the absence of a critical and reflective mass, whether in the form of academic research or artistic expression. The paper intends to confront and discuss archive historical photographs from different phases of construction of the city and its surrounding landscape, with recent photographs. This visual atlas, as an unfinished, inorganic and impure edifice, join and relates the photographs as fragments. It follows the line of reasoning of Walter Benjamin on the political potential of the outmoded as a subject matter.


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