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Minho's hydraulic heritage

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Regaining a sense of belonging
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS: concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
Project title
Minho's hydraulic heritage
Full concept/idea title
Revitalization of Minho's hydraulic heritage

This project focuses on the preservation of pre-existing hydraulic structures in the Minho region, currently in disuse or abandoned - circumstances that increase the risk of losing of this heritage. In the face of this, we propose a renewal of the sense of use of these hydraulic structures and associated spaces, thus investing in improving the quality of public spaces, valuing the local culture and the history of such places.

What is the geographical scope of your concept/idea?
Viana do Castelo.
Does your concept/idea address mainly urban or rural issues?
It addresses urban-rural linkages
Does your concept/idea refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to other types of transformations ('soft investment')
Has your concept/idea benefited from EU programmes and/or funds?
Has your concept/idea won an EU prize?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
Social media
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As an individual
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea

Inspired by the network of hydraulic structures in which the high and low mountain elevations are characteristic of our north landscape, this project intends to value, qualify and reactivate those pre-existing systems by associating a new use to them. In order to fight the abandonment and forgetfulness of this built heritage, this project focuses on the valorization of local culture, material and immaterial.

Relying on the pre-existing hydraulic system of Minho region that have characterized our mountain landscape for centuries, from the tanks or reservoirs to levadas or irrigation channels, we intend to reactivate this hydraulic system creating small gardens along their paths and converting its surroundings into renewable spaces imbued with life.

Following the natural slope of the land, the levadas transport, through gravity’s force, the water from the springs (at higher elevations) to the tanks or reservoirs (at lower elevations), distributing the water at different sites. To accompany this pre-existing system, we propose the creation of pedestrian paths along these routes and gardens at certain strategic points, thus enhancing a new look at these structures with high heritage value. By promoting new routes, accesses and paths, we enhance and publicize a particular feature of the region – a source of history and identity –, in a close relationship with nature. 

Please indicate the main themes of your concept/idea with 5 key words
Cultural heritage
Hydraulic structures
Urban Regeneration
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of environmental sustainability (including circularity) and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

The accelerated growth of cities, particularly in the city of Viana do Castelo, is reflected today in a progressive occupation of the peripheries of the urban center [gentrification, decentralization]. This  expansion and densification we are witnessing often calls into question the quality of these same spaces. Territory previously occupied by agricultural fields are now undergoing an abrupt investment in construction, depriving many of these regions of their own characteristics. The disregard by the circumstances in which they are insert results in the devaluation of the material heritage and it’s lost.

Taking into account that even the human occupation of the territory was governed in its genesis by the proximity of waterways, with this project we intend to enhance a secular knowledge present in the hydraulic heritage of the Minho region. Water, as an essential source of and for life, emerges then as a primary resource. On the other hand, granite appears as the main material of construction; besides the adoption of this material in the hydraulic structures, it is also visible the use of granite in the retaining walls that delimit the land along the slopes – a solution very associated with the agricultural exploitation of the region. This are exemplary of a sustainable architecture and express how we can re-use some of pre-existing structures to solve a few problems.

Taking into account the consequences of human interventions at a local scale and the repercussions of that same impact at a global scale, the preservation of the local ecosystems and the defense of biodiversity are no less than essential. Defending the presence of vegetation in urban design emerges as a strategy to mitigate environmental changes and promote a resilient future. 

Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

Recognizing in the genesis of these hydraulic structures a functional sense — that of the distribution of water for irrigation and consumption – those same hydraulic structures were also a meeting and sharing space for developing a social and community life. This was the scenario until the beginning of the 20th century. With the end of the dependence on agriculture and the scarcity of labor, many of these structures ceased to be used, and many dried up due to canalization and water detour, which caused them to be forgotten.

By valuing the layout of these structures, due to their proximity to a certain context, we understand essential carry out a renewal of the relationship of the local communities with this heritage. By such means, the aim is to enhance a sort of continuity of the history of the place, promoting a greater sense of belonging and a closer approach to the natural resources of the region. The creation of gardens in certain spots also reveals the need to safeguard green spaces in cities, promoting biodiversity and the preservation of ecosystems — spaces that also contribute to the mental health of the population.

Being the relationship with nature an essential motive to value the spaces created, we understand ‘beauty’ not just in its aesthetic domain but also in an ethical one. We recognize beauty in the layout of pre-existing structures that we want to protect, for its good planning and attention to context, whose form and materiality derive from the natural circumstance of the territory; and we wont to continue to give beautiful enjoyment from this spaces, proposing new uses with the presence of water and vegetation around them.

Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

Through the preservation of this heritage we identify the safeguarding of material and immaterial values, sources of constructive knowledge and of a knowledge linked to tradition. Valuing the cultural identity of places, we distinguish that the presence of these centennial constructions reveals itself as a means to educate and reinterpret new uses, transporting visitors to past times in a close relation with the history of the place. 

The sense of belonging it's a key way to reconnect the local people with the place. In this way we understand that it is only with an engagement with the local community that we can contribute to the renewal and strengthening of the collective memory of such place and encourage a more valuable understanding of culture to the future generations.

Please explain how these three dimensions would be combined in your concept/idea.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

The three dimensions are interlinked when we think about the development of urban design. This project promotes the creation of more green places, where the re-use of pre-existing structures and the promotion of public gardens and public paths its a way to valorize the heritage and the cultural values of the region. Furthermore, when we talk about the consequences of this intervention we identify as a goal the preservation of the identity of the place. This project is inevitably about the relationship between the places and the common human history. This heritage is the result of human occupation, in accordance with daily life and daily needs, so we must value it as cultural history.

Defending that, a way to reconnect the today’s community with this old structures it's giving them new uses and new functions related with today's needs – promoting new histories and new memories. This is the sense of inclusion and sustainability of the project. The aesthetic dimension is revealed in how we solve the problem of these places. How we improve the lives of the people of today and think about the legacy left for the people of tomorrow.

Please highlight the innovative character of the concept/idea as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the concept/idea.

Currently, despite the progressive qualification of heritage in Portugal and its protection by legislation, we sometimes witness real attacks to the material heritage in the process of classification, as is the case of this network of hydraulic structures. Although the causes of these incidents are diverse, with this project we believe it is possible to do it differently. We believe in the need to safeguard this cultural legacy that was left to us, valuing and qualifying it, so that we can once again integrate this heritage into people's daily lives.

On the other hand, when we intend to promote new paths and new spaces for people enjoyment we are qualifying urban design. We are valuing the spaces and promoting new ways to use and see them. The strong cultural feature of this project values also the way of how can we invest in public spaces and how through it we can educate generations about the close relation of history with daily life.

Please detail the general plans that you have for the further development, promotion and/or implementation of your concept/idea.

1) - Scientific research;

Theoretical Part: Firstly it’s necessary to start a scientific research about this structures, so we can recognize the origine of them and be able to classify them;

Practical Part: It’s necessary a topographic survey of this structures in the region. We can start for a small portion at first, and extend the data along the years. For this it's important to have the City Council support and invest in a good survey team. This it's a project for a long term;

2) - Legal classification of this heritage;

For the process of legalization the heritage (with material and patrimonial value), we understand that it’s important to have the support of the portuguese Direção-Geral do Património Cultural (DGPC).

3) - Development of the project;

Draw the new paths and gardens along the structures in strategic points. This third point calls for multi-disciplinary work where archaeologists, landscape architects, urban planners, biologists, hydraulic engineers, geographers, geologists, … only working together we can achieve a good solution!

4)  - Safeguard the maintenance and the good functioning of the hydraulic network;

To ensure the maintenance of this hydraulic structures we propose a partnership between the City Council and the "Associação Portuguesa de Jardins e Sítios Históricos" (APJSH) – whose work of identification, recovery and preservation of these hydraulic structures has been developed since 2006 [along with the application to the EEA Grants program of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area (MFEEE)]. 

Imagine that your idea/concept is awarded in the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022. What kind of initiatives would you take throughout the following year (June 2022- June 2023)

It’s important to sensibilize the public institutions for the problems suggested in the project, such as: the state of abandonment of the hydropower network in the region and the risk of loss this heritage; the need to qualify these public spaces; the problem of urban densification and the consequent lost of biodiversity; the preservation of the local ecosystems. 
With public investment we see the hydraulic structures survey and it's recognition in urban plans as crucial.

Thus, we believe that scientific research should be done on this heritage.

By ticking this box, you declare that you are not in in one or more of the exclusion situations foreseen under Article 136 of the Financial Regulation.
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that you assume sole liability in the event of a claim relating to the activities carried out in the framework of the contest, that the proposed concept/idea has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022 in any other category or strand and that it has not been subject to any type of investigation, which could lead to a financial correction because of irregularities or fraud.
By submitting your application, you guarantee that you are the author or have the rights to proceed with the application and to authorise the use of the project, concept, idea, and that you have obtained any necessary consents, licenses or assignments from third parties and included copyright notices when necessary.
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