‘Escadinhas Footpaths’ (Caminho das Escadinhas) is a project that links architecture, art and the natural world. It is a network of pedestrian footpaths linking the hilly neighbourhood of Monte Xisto to the banks of the River Leça in Matosinhos. The initiative is intended to demonstrate the added value that low-budget projects can bring to more ‘hidden’, neglected urban spaces in our cities.
Lasting a year, the process brought together a multidisciplinary team of architects, local builders, artists and an extensive network of partners. The architectural plans, by paulo moreira architectures, were meticulously executed by local builders, overseen by José Silva, who is himself a resident of the neighbourhood. The building work was supplemented by an artistic intervention by the Verkron collective, lending an artistic dimension to the project that enhances its appeal.
In the first phase of the building work, the steps leading to Rua das Escadinhas, an unusual urban device connecting the upper and lower levels of the western hill of Monte Xisto, were rehabilitated. The steps and handrail were repaired and a new boundary between the public steps and the private land adjoining them was created in the form of benches, allowing the stairs to be used as a resting place.
Following the path that links the foot of the steps to the River Leça, an old ruin was rebuilt and transformed into a seating area surrounded by nature. Cleaning the area and the ruin was a huge challenge. The sheer amount of rubbish, debris and vegetation that had accumulated after the site had been abandoned for more than forty years made it impassable and unusable by local people.
The cleaning operation extended beyond the building: the river banks were also cleaned up and the natural landscape was enhanced. Once the rubbish and debris had been removed, the ruins were reinforced. Small-scale interventions restored the site’s original character, undoing the precarious interventions carried out over the years. The meticulous rehabilitation of the site, which included adding benches in every ‘room’ in the building, has encouraged people to spend time there and transformed it into a place for socialising.
A workshop took place, with the participation of children, youngsters and families. It allowed for an exchange between the community and the art/architecture team. During the activity, participants painted the walls of the intervention area.
The initiative is intended to demonstrate the added value that low-budget projects can bring to more ‘hidden’, neglected urban spaces in our cities.
This project promoted by INSTITUTO and designed by paulo moreira architectures, with Verkron, in the framework of Bairros Saudáveis initiative, also with support by InResidence / Ágora – Cultura e Desporto and União de Freguesias – Custóias, Leça do Balio e Guifões.
project by: paulo moreira architectures, with Verkron
team: Paulo Moreira, Hemak Verkron, Irad Verkron, Carlos Gomes, Joyceline Teixeira, Raquel Pais, Oona Philomena Wächter, Oscar Larfeuille, Sami Sahli, Sofia Paganelli
local builders: José Silva, Fábio Silva
area: 600 m2
photography: Ivo Tavares Studio (www.ivotavares.net)
video: João Ana / INSTITUTO