Project 4: High:Street


Project Brief: unit g_hfh_project4_highstreet_fin

The arrival, departure, exchange and migration of ideas, people and goods, welcome and otherwise, have shaped every aspect of our world, language, music, literature, food, traditions, and history.  And the built environment embodies this constant transformation through its organisation, fabric and atmosphere.  So in a world increasingly blinkered to diversity and the contribution of overlapping cultures and ideas, it seems essential Architecture actively chooses an alternative: embracing and celebrating migration, exchange and interchange as inevitable, essential and desirable.

European colonisation of India, Africa, Asia and the Americas; Spanish Conquistadors and Moors in Southern Europe, Vikings in Iceland, Greenland and Canada, and Romans in Britain: as each community arrives it imports a memory of home, and exports a received image of the New World in goods, produce, buildings, ideas and people, and by exchange each culture is assimilated and digested.

Portugal and her Atlantic harbours of Porto and Lisbon have always been a point of arrival and departure, but since the 2008 financial crash, and a peak of 10.6M people in 2010, Portugal’s population has been in sharp decline and is expected to fall below 8.5M in the next 30years.  So the government took the unusual step of actively encouraging South American, Middle Eastern, Chinese and North African immigration, and has seen these communities grow from 50,000 in 1980 to 330,000 in 2010, while the Portuguese diaspora overseas has grown to more than 2.3M people.

In this context Lisbon is a modest capital city of around half a million people that welcomed 5.6M tourists in 2016, significantly contributing to the country’s recent recovery.  But this success has generated alarming increases in housing costs and rent, and rapid eviction of traditional communities from the city centre into ever spreading suburbs.  Just beyond the historic centre Marvila was once an area of grand summer qunitas converted into modest factories and workshops supporting a tight-knit community.  But construction of large scale social housing decimated the existing grain and identity of the area and Marvila rapidly became a destination for rural and international migration, and at the same time reshaping the urban fabric as a reflection of “elsewhere” while the amazing natural resources reinforce a sense of place.

And this raises an obvious question: “What’s next?” can Lisbon continue to evolve without losing identity? is there an alternative to gentrification and the seemingly inevitable hipster or Airbnb invasion?  how can a city become more affluent AND more culturally and socially diverse? And is Architecture relevant to these questions? and if so how should it respond?


Stitched into the fabric of Marvila the High:Street project will offer answers, amplifying and bringing the Corner:Shop ideas home from Little Portugal, to find resonance in Lisbon’s climate, topography, local materials, skills, crafts and traditions, while helping to form, empower and delight a specific community.  The High:Street will form an intensely occupied cultural interchange, both “home” of a specific migrant community, and “hub” for the exchange of skills, knowledge, information, entertainment, arts, sport or commerce, to encourage participation, community building, and provide a place for common purpose.

The High:Street will house community activities, welcome the wider public, and draw on traditions, innovations, resources and opportunities, to make a “Contribution” to people, culture and city.  Your reading of Marvila and chosen participants, will define the spaces, processes and appropriate scale of intervention; and how these are expressed will give voice to the idea of “Home from Home”.

Real world High:Street projects include: Leca de Palmeira tidal pools, by Alvaro Siza (changing rooms, pools and beach cafe); Peckham Library by Alsop and Stormer (library, community centre and public space), Casa da Arquitetura, Porto by Guilherme Machado Vaz (museum, library, studio, public space) and Waterloo City Farm by Fielden Fowles (allotments, village green, schoolhouse, barn and offices).

So the High:Street might be a local history museum and market traders social club, or a textile gallery and public craft workshops for the West African community, or a language school and  youth theatre, or a transport workers cafe and aural history centre, or whatever feels most appropriate and useful to enrich the community AND engage with society.


“Lisbon is formed of a succession of urban areas, each with their own character, reflecting when they were built. So Alfama is the medieval core of the city,  Baixa, built after the earthquake of 1755, is typical of the Pombal era, Chiado was restored by Álvaro Siza after the 1988 fire, and the Park of Nations constructed for the World Expo 1998.  But around these areas are numerous vacant spaces between the centre and suburbs, that feel both remote yet closely connected.

Neglecting these city fragments in favour of suburban development reflects Lisbon’s demographic evolution.  Between the 1980s and 2000 the city centre saw a sharp population decline, losing 300.000 residents while the northern suburbs expanded from 375.000 to 1.400.000 people, and from 290.000 to over 700.000 in the south.  And this migration from centre to periphery, has driven the city’s expanding footprint, and defined it’s polycentric, fragmented urban fabric.

Today, Lisbon is keen to invert the trend and is looking to rethink its centre, connections with the waterfront, and organization of urban discontinuities.  Projects such as the redevelopment of the Ribeira das Naus next to the Tagus, surroundings of the botanical garden, and of Sant’Ana hill have already been completed.  Other studies aim to redefine enclaves such as the Alcântara or Chelas valleys.

The competition site is in Marvila, between Alfama and the Park of Nations, overlooking the riverfront, defined by the ruins of a quinta built early in the 18th century, when Marvila was a leisure area for the rich.  In the‘90s the plot was earmarked for Oscar Niemeyer’s Fundação Luso-Brasileira project, but construction was brought to a halt after only the floor slab was complete before lying unused for 30yrs as a monument to past visions of urban evolution. The areas industrial heritage is also still present, as well as more recent housing projects, such as the towers to the north of the competition plot.

The site is also part of the Regeneration and Optimization of Cultural heritage and Knowledge cities program, known as ROCK. The hypothesis of this European project is that local heritage can be a strong driver for the redefinition of unclaimed urban voids and a support for innovative urban renewal, and the renewal of Marvila must also be considered from its cultural and social dimensions.

Unclaimed interstitial land like the Marvila site, is typical of Lisbon’s larger urban condition, and offers the potential to reduce urban sprawl, by locating development within the existing city limits.  The city also envisages ambitious and widespread urban reconfiguration through the construction of a third bridge crossing the Tagus river. The bridge reasserting Lisbon’s European status, and connect the city to Madrid by a future high-speed train line.  So the site forms an intersection:, a north/south axis connects the city to the international realm, and an east/west axis connects the city to its suburbs, forming a crossing that only makes sense when considered locally and beyond.”

Text based on“The Poetics of Reason”, Lisbon Triennale 2019 


The High:Street within Marvila’s multi-layered, dilapidated fabric, will occupy one of four linked sites cutting a section inland from the coast, explored in the Location:Section and should also be seen in context of the International Student Competition for the Lisbon Triennale 2019, and city plans for the re-development of Marvila and Lisbon.  Through careful intervention, insertion, adaptation and selective demolition, the High:Street will form a symbiotic relationship with the site, people and adjacent activities, so existing communities benefit from your proposals, and in turn your scheme will thrive and be increasingly convincing.

Your proposals will develop from an acute conceptual, physical and emotional reading of Marvila and it’s potential, and through detailed in-depth analysis of the place


  • Existing and adjacent occupation – buildings/ruins/landscape/use/people: Who or what lives here? Works here? Plays here? Grows here? Made here?
  • Local activities: trades, production, crafts, and cultivation; and seasonal activities events and transformation of the site: existing, traditional, and historical
  • Connections and associations to local and distant communities and places, and historic and mythical use and associations to the site
  • Topography, geology and nature of the ground
  • Prevailing weather and environmental conditions
  • Availability and proximity of resources
  • Urban fabric and existing infrastructures
  • Public transport, access from above, below and on ground level, and connections beyond the site
  • Views from the site, and views of the site from elsewhere: at a distance

You will need to intensively survey the site, thoroughly document your observations and research, and rigorously test your reading of the place to generate the material and evidence to accurately and beautifully draw and model the site; capture your ideas, fabric, constraints and opportunities of the site; and provide the rich “intellectual soup” to drive the development of your High:Street proposals.

Spatial Brief:

Whatever the chosen purpose of your High:Street, it will:

  • Be specific to a migrant community in Marvila and their cultural activities and traditions
  • Host a carefully defined cultural exchange of skill, knowledge, information, entertainment, arts, sport or commerce
  • Be actively public, inclusive, and engaging beyond it’s obvious participants.
  • Be tailored to the specificity of the site and a defined spatial territory beyond your intervention
  • Provide the essential facilities and accommodation to be functional, comfortable, delightful and engaging
  • Draw on local resources, infrastructures and facilities to become integrated and embedded within Marvila and Lisbon
  • Harness and celebrate the local conditions
  • Respond to the routines and rhythms of the city
  • Intervene in the site, city and community in any way you consider appropriate to form a critical spatial response to place, people, purpose and permanence
  • Delight, entertain, inspire, bring the city to life, and in some way be a catalyst for change…

All the activities hosted by the High:Street will be defined in a drawing/diagram/model that graphically captures the following the critical qualities of the “Participants”, “Outpost”, “Exchange” and “Contribution” to form a visual “Spatial Brief” for the project:


Identify and investigate a specific migrant community their skills, traditions, passions, heritage, legends, stories, shared fears, delight, joy, concerns and pride

Who are they? Where are they from? How many? How do they engage with the exchange? Age, expectations, local etiquette and traditions, specific needs…


Identify the equivelent Home:Comforts of your chosen community, their journey to Marvila, how their distant communities and cultural traditions are reflected in the place


Identify and investigate a specific activity drawn from your Home:Comfort and/or Corner:Shop project that is appropriate to your “Participants”

What is the nature of the exchange? techniques, crafts, expertise, and traditions, number of participants, equipment, materials, resources, spaces, facilities, essential environmental conditions, critical cultural cues, timing and duration of the exchange, seasonal qualities, storage, workshops, and management


Identify how the wider community engages with the High:Street

Does the High:Street provide employment? public space? engage in the wider public realm? offer communication, critique, inspiration, delight or education?


An intimate knowledge of the people, process, timescales, and quantities will be critical to sizing, designing and organizing the High:Street in terms of brief and architectural strategy.  So an essential step to define your proposal will be to visit, survey, document, and record your first-hand experiences of an appropriate organizational precedent (theatre, library, workshop etc.), and to join-in, or do-it/make-it yourself; developing your ideas from this critical personal experience.

The spatial organization and experience of the High:Street will be defined by the people, activities, response to the site, distant communities, weather, materials, movement, noise, smells, and atmosphere; the architecture is expected to reflect and express these qualities to establish a critical dialogue between the proposal, the people and the place.


Yr3 projects should be at a scale equivelent to Peckham Library with around 10 full-time staff, and facilities for up to 200 community participants on site

Yr2 projects should be at the scale equivalent to the Waterloo City Farm with around 5 full-time staff and facilities for up to 100 community participants on site


As a sustainable 21st century building the High:Street will need to address questions of integration, resources, and economies of scale.  Abandoning the selfish tendency towards self-sufficiency and off-grid narcissism, the High:Street will embracing the idea of community, collaboration and integration: working locally and contributing generously, sourcing, and encouraging local productivity, and helping to develop a wider network of resources.

Your High:Street proposals will be rooted in Marvila, Lisbon, and Portugal and engage in the sense of place, while also drawing inspiration from the migrant community of participants and their ideas of home.

The project’s sense of place will be informed by the connection to the site and ground and how the proposals stand up, the materials and methods of construction, and the nature and qualities of the internal and external environments.  Your proposals may be a hybrid of local, technical and homespun; self-grown, harvested or imported, permanent, temporary or experimental; familiar or deliberately alien; as appropriate to your conceptual ideas and personal definition of an Architecture where “necessity is the mother of invention”

But make no assumptions about what is, or is not, sustainable in any location or community: draw your conclusions and position from research, experimentation and testing: seeking sources of abundant minerals, materials and energy; questioning what is really required, and celebrating the implications of generosity.

In the book “Cradle to Cradle” William McDonough and Michael Braungart make the analogy to a cherry tree, which produces a natural abundance of fruit, food, shade, habitat, compost, colour, and fragrance well in excess of necessity in response to the changing seasons and conditions: each process positively contributes to further abundance in the next process: benefiting both the cherry tree and other local and associated organisms – there is no waste.

Your response to the materials, construction, structure and environmental design of the High:Street project will be in parallel and intertwined with conceptual spatial design process, to seek a synthesis between community, exchange, production, bye-production, people, and place.

The High:Street is the primary vehicle to explore and demonstrate your understanding, exploration, invention, integration and control of architectural technology within either the yr2 or yr3 Double Design modules and the Yr3 Advanced Technology module.  Your technology proposals are to be fully integrated within your final portfolio presentation of the project, where the work will be assessed within the Portfolio marking process.

Your detail technology proposals will initially be explored through the development of a “Negotiated Section” drawing forming a notional cut through the critical spaces at an early stage in the development of your proposals.

Your final architectural drawings (plans/sections/axo etc) for the project will integrate your technology proposals supported by a detailed structural model and a 1:20 3d detail drawing to explain your constructional, material, environmental and structural ideas and propositions, backed up by experiments, models, prototypes, sketches, diagrams, and further drawings in 2d and 3d, relating your proposals to carefully chosen and considered precedents.

Your final architectural drawings and models will (beautifully) convey how your technology proposals respond to site and seasonal conditions, spatial necessity and activities, cultural and social considerations, strategic organization and detail resolution, conceptual ideas and spatial experience.


Work:                                      Inwards from a rough initial proposition through iterative models and drawings to test, explore and develop the final proposals

And:                                        Outwards through models and drawings to test and develop the final relationship to the site, community and place

And:                                        In parallel test and develop your final ideas for the materiality, structure, construction and environmental design

Over Christmas:

  • Identify, research and investigate a specific community of Participants and consider their needs, traditions, aspirations and Home:Comfort equivalents to propose what the High:Street will provide for the community: the “Home”and how it engages with the wider public: the “Exchange”
  • Drawing from your Home:Comfort, Corner:Shop, and Location:Section projects develop the proposed purpose for the High:Street and link your ideas to your conceptual reading of the Marvila site
  • Visit, survey, document and research relevant organisational precedents for your High:Street primary activities (schools, theatres, workshops etc.)
  • Investigate the qualities, resources, opportunities, constraints and associations with the Marvila site through highly tuned site drawings, models, images and diagrams: Location:Section+

Semester 2:

  • Use your research to define the spatial brief, scale, timetable of activities, numbers of participants, ingredients/materials, quantities and spatial organisation, consolidated in diagrams and drawings
  • Use your research to explore the “Participants”, “Exchange”, ideas of “Home”, and define the “Contribution” to the local community and place
  • Explore the programmatic, pragmatic, conceptual and emotional responses to the site, communities and activities, consolidated in diagrams, models and drawings
  • Develop a 3D organisational and conceptual model or drawing to capture your Spatial Strategy for the intertwined activities, communities and response to the site
  • From the Spatial Strategy, test your ideas through sketching and modelling to develop a First Iteration of the proposal in scale drawings or models
  • Change scale, and look in detail at the critical spaces in the proposal to develop the next iteration
  • Change scale, and look at the relationship of the whole to the site to develop the next iteration
  • Analyse and refer to precedents to support each conceptual idea, material, space, detail, atmosphere, structure etc. to inform your design process
  • Develop further iterations in response to: views out, views on site, spatial occupation, light, structure, acoustics, water, materials, the journey, seasons, smells, or whatever is critical, alternating between sketches, sections, models, plans, and 3d views
  • Test each iteration through photomontage and collage into site images, your site model, and within the Location:Section drawing
  • With each iteration explore and develop the graphic and modelling techniques to communicate your ideas and inform your thinking and design process



Use any appropriate media, material or technique to best explore, test and communicate your ideas.  The complete project narrative and design process should be presented in no more than 30no. A2 (or equivalent) hybrid portfolio sheets, inc: design, process, technology, models, materials, samples, annotation and precedent.  The final drawings must include finely crafted 2d plans, 2d sections, site plans, site sections, and internal and external perspectives (elevations optional) together with:

  • A thorough spatial exploration of the underlying strategic, organisational and conceptual ideas
  • A 3-dimensional exploration of the spatial experience within the proposal and of the proposal in context on site
  • A detailed exploration of the materials, construction of the proposal, the structure, and critical qualities and control of the internal/external environment
  • Selected process work will be integrated into the portfolio sheets, plus a wider range presented on process pages (trace?) interleaved between portfolio sheets



Community, Purpose and Location:Section Pin-Up:

Tuesday 29th January                                            Week 1


Interim Review:

Thursday 28th February                                        Week 5


Final Review:

2nd yr Cross Crit      Monday 1st April                Week 10

3rd yr Cross Crit      Thursday 4th April              Week 10


Final Portfolio Submission:

2nd yr Submission  Wednesday 8th May            Week 13

3rd yr Submission  Thursday 9th May                 Week 13