Construction, densification, decline and demolition of an urban area in crisis

A history of unrest about abandonment and policies

  • Sónia Alves Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), DINÂMIA’CET-IUL
Keywords: urban regeneration, demolition, social housing


This article is intended to contribute to the reflection on the dynamics affecting urban areas in crisis and the effects of policies that try to regenerate these areas. This paper is divided into two parts. The first part is a theoretical introduction about the diversity of urban areas 'at risk' and the factors that explain the decline of these areas. In this analysis we distinguish those which bind predominantly to the internal characteristics of the territories (physical, economic, social and organizational features) from the external ones, associated for example with the negative social representations. Above all, we try to highlight the additional negative effects that arise from the correlation of these two types of disadvantages, emphasizing its ability to create cycles of cumulative disadvantage in some areas. The second part is eminently empirical, focusing on the neighbourhood of “S. João de Deus”. It begins by describing construction and densification processes of the district, which would contribute to a path of social and urban decay that deepens during the 1980’s. Then we describe the contradictory and fragmented nature of regeneration strategies that have been directed to the neighbourhood in the following decades: the programme of construction and redevelopment in the 1990’s, as a part of the National Programme to Combat Poverty, and, one decade after, under the European Programme Urban II, the strategy that led to the almost total demolition of the neighbourhood. It ends up reflecting on the social and territorial impacts of demolitions.