45 years since SAAL

This 25th April (2019) Portugal celebrated 45 years after the revolution put an end to Salazar’s dictatorship, opening the way to democracy, and the right to housing, formally recognized by the present Constitution of Portugal which was adopted in 1976.

Portuguese public housing history (and architecture) is definitely marked by the revolutionary SAAL process, which was in force during the transition period between the dictatorship and the democracy.

The SAAL – Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local (August 1974 – October 1976), was established (by decree) by the initiative of the architect Nuno Portas, the State Secretary for Housing and Urban Planning during the transitory governments.

It was the apogee of a process of decentralization of competences, running alongside a growing involvement of the architects on public housing issues during the 1960’s and the early 1970’s.

The SAAL was a participatory process, lead by the “brigadas técnicas” – multidisciplinary teams coordinated by architects – aiming at the improvement of housing conditions for people living in illegal and precarious neighbourhoods / shantytowns, by means of cooperation, self-construction, and financial support (by the state / municipalities). One of the main challenges of SAAL was giving the people propriety rights, avoiding the creation of new ghettos.

José António Bandeirinha states in his book “Processo SAAL e Arquitectura

no 25 de Abril de 1974” (2011) that when the SAAL process finished, there were 169

“operations” taking place (involving the construction of more than 2.000 new houses), but just 13% of the land was available (expropriated or given up).

For several reasons, the agitated times during which the SAAL was in force did not allow its continuation, and none of the “operations” initiated during SAAL were finished before its extinction in 1976. Some of the projects were completed during the following decades, and others were never finished.

45 years later, SAAL continues to trigger our interest, its legacy is inspiring architects, urban planners, sociologists, politicians, and other professionals, practicing or researching public housing. Despite its short duration, the SAAL extended from Porto to the Algarve, its impact was immense, in Portugal as well as abroad. It also opened the way for the internationalization of Portuguese architecture and architects.

Photo - a red carnation is the symbol of the "April Revolution" on the 25th of April 1974.

Photo and post credits: Lisboa Architecture Walks & Trips

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