Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Adaptive Reuse - the Movement Towards the Future. 14th International DOCOMOMO Conference. 6-9 September 2016, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisboa, Portugal.


This paper examines the process and results of a multinational, interdisciplinary pedagogical experiment aimed at exploring design options for the reconfiguration of dwellings in Portela: a modern middle-class, high-rise estate in north-east Lisbon.

The experimental workshop entitled “Contemporary Living Patterns in Mass Housing in Europe” occurred in the ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon in the summer of 2014 under the aegis of OIKONET, a global multidisciplinary network on housing research and learning funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme.

Three framing steps preceded the design work of the students. Firstly, a lecture focused in three issues: i) the social and demographic changes that are affecting Portugal; ii) the characterization of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA), the context of Portela and its development after the 1950’s; ii) the evolution of housing in the LMA and its sociological implications. Secondly, a visit to the estate including a visit to two apartments: one of a family that lived there since 1975 and the other inhabited by a young family. Thirdly, a “studio” with two themes: i) explaining the sociological development of Portela; ii) presenting a preliminary exercise - each group had to propose a reconfiguration of an apartment premised on their interpretation of changing sociological conditions and demographic needs.

Following these introductions the student groups then worked in a design studio atmosphere supported by architectural tutors. Students had to develop one or a series of designs for a reconfiguration of the habitat units on the estate, write a blog on the process, build a full-scale mock-up and present their proposals in the final day.

The paper will reflect on the workshop process and the student groups’ proposals which exposed crucial questions on the nature of modern living in mass housing and the systems that might be developed to cope with changing demography and new lifestyles.



EU Life Long Learning Fund