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The Portuguese built a maritime empire during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that

incorporated settlements along the coasts of Brazil,

Africa, India and the Far East.


architecture and urban spaces of these settlements reflected the dual influence and interbreeding

of Portuguese and local cultures.

Overseas Portuguese towns shared the same models of

reference. These were the medieval towns of Portugal, particularly Lisbon and Oporto, which






that can be traced back to the Muslim








and to European planned







architecture, both in the adaptation of

Portuguese models to local materials and climatic

conditions, and in the adoption by Portuguese builders of local typologies, forms, and models

of reference. The Portuguese left their mark in many parts of the world, most particularly in

architectural tradition. Knowledge and experience gained by local builders from thePortuguese

five centuries ago has in many places been passed down from generation to generation, and has

resulted in the preservation of building prototypes that embody today's traditional architecture.

For Europeans, the Portuguese voyages of the period were an important component of the

Renaissance and the emergence of a new vision of man.

Manuel Teixeira is an As sistant Artes, Lisbon, Portugal.

Profe ssor at L 'A cadami a Nac. Belas

The conquest of Ceuta in Morocco in 14 15 marked the beginning of Portuguese expansion overseas. During the next two centuries Portugal built and kept a maritime empire in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans that brought an effective monopoly ofnavigation and commerce along the coasts of Africa, India, the Far East and Brazil. Three successive Papal Bulls, in 1452, 1455 and 1456, confirmed this monopoly. Prince D. Henrique - Henr y the Navigator - was the initial strategist of the enterprise; he was also the Grandmaster of the Order of Christ, and gavethis Order spiritual jurisdiction over all lands discovered by the Portuguese. The spirit of crusade against the infidels,

Order spiritual jurisdiction over all lands discovered by the Portuguese. The spirit of crusade against the




the expansion of the Christian faith, and more down-to­ earth commercial objectives were the main forces behind

ambitious enterprise of the Portuguese Descobertas in


the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

For historians, the Portuguese expansion must be set within the context of the European Renaissance, of which it was an essential component. Georges Lefebvre has said, "De cene aventure elargie, multiseculaire (a nos yeux), la Renais­ sance - quel a ete en gros Ie fait essentiel? Bien sur les grandes decouvertes."l An important contribution of Por­ tugal to the Renaissance was a new vision of man brought about by contact with new races and civilizations. The tendency of the Portuguese to mix with the peoples they encountered led to a miscegenation, or interbreeding, of cultures. This trend is clearly visible in the architecture and urban spaces of the Portuguese colonial settlements. The composite models produced in them often were accepted as new types of traditional architecture, replacing previously established models.


The trade in gold, produced in the regions south of the Sahara - and after 1442, the slave trade - were the main initial objectives of Portuguese merchants. Portugal was able to divert to its ships a substantial share of the trans­ Saharan trade formerly held by the Tuareg caravans. But after the 1480s, the objective became India, especially the discovery of a seaway around Africa. Until this time the spice trade had been in the hands of Muslim merchants, who sailed the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea and who traveled overland to the Mediterranean coast, and Venetian merchants, who shipped from the Mameluke ports of Syria and Egypt to Europe. The commercial objective of Portu­ gal was to take hold of this monopoly, and in 1498 the fleet of Vasco da Gama reached Calicut.

As Portugal progressed in its search for a seaway to India, a string of forts and factories were built along the coasts of Africa and Arabia. These settlements were located at strategic points, serving either as bases from which to protect the sea routes, ports of call for provisioning ships, or trading stations. Some evolved into urban settlements, and their urban structure and architecture came to reflect both Portuguese culture and the cultures of the societies Portugal came into contact with.

cultures of the societies Portugal came into contact with. In 1500, Pedro AlvaresCabral discovered Brazil on

In 1500, Pedro AlvaresCabral discovered Brazil on his way to India. The colonization of this land was postponed for many years because of the involvement of the Portuguese Crown in the Indian trade, the gold of Guinea, and the wars with Morocco. But during the second half of the sixteenth century the casual trade with Amerindian tribes was re­ placed by the cultivation of, and commerce in, sugar cane. Waves of Portuguese immigrants settled in Brazil after 1570, giving rise to numerous settlements along the coast. Some of these rapidly evolved into administrative, com­ mercial or agricultural centers.

In India, the Portuguese founded a number of important cities on both coasts. These were fortresses and adminis­ trative and commercial centers for the trade in Asian spices. From India, the Portuguese traveled as far as Japan, where in 1561 the village of Yokoseura was founded with the agreement of the local shogun. In the intervening half century the Portuguese built a maritime empire that effec­ tively controlled commerce in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and in the China seas. Portuguese settlements were built along the coasts of Brazil, Africa, Arabia, Persia, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Siam, the Malay Peninsula, the East Indies, China and Japan.

Portuguese settlements fell into three main categories: the factory, the fort and the city. These types were not tightly fixed; rather, they tended to evolve one from the other. Factories were trading stations that sometimes consisted of little more than a house surrounded by a palisade. They were located in privileged trading places, often at the mouth of a river, making communication with the hinterland possible. Forts were often fortified trading stations that grew to accommodate a number of settlers' houses (FIG. 1). Alternatively, forts were built in locations where no com­ mercial activity was justified but where strategic planning called for a supply of food and water or a port of call for ships in distress. Most cities evolved from factories or forts, particularly in places where commercial activity was intense. These settlements were founded by the state, or were built under patronage of the state, and they became stepping stones for the foundation of new Portuguese cities in ever more distant places.

An important characteristic of towns built by the Portu­ guese overseas, and of the Portuguese colonial expansion in general, was the gradual way that it occurred. Portugal underwent the occupation of the Moors for over five






TEIXEIRA: PORTUGUESE TRADITIONAL S ETTL E M ENTS • 25 centuries. When the Moors werefmally expelledin

centuries. When the Moors werefmally expelledin 1249, they left behind deep marks on both the architecture and urban c haracter of the country's south. Portuguese citiesin Alentejo andAlgarve were not much different from Moroccan cities in terms of physical character or popu­ lation (which included Moors, Christians andJews). Thus, when the Portuguese conquered Ceuta in 1415, they were not faced with an alien experience. They met a famil iar reality with regard to people, urban spaces, climate and geography - a situation that contributed to their easy adaptation to North Africa.

But Morocco was just the first step. Portuguese seamen progressed from one region to the next without discontinu­ ity, allowing progressive adaptation to ecological and cul­ tural conditions in Africa, Asia and South America. This pattern ofadaptation helps explain the remarkable continu­ ity of tradition that Portuguese colonial cities display de­ spite the immense variety of contexts in which they appear.

The different ecological conditions in which Portuguese overseas cities were built, the different cultures they faced, and the specific roles they were assigned gave each specific "local" characteristics. Yet every Portuguese overseas city had the same models of reference, predominantly drawn from Lisbon - the metropolis - which gave them an un­ mistakable "national" character. This did not mean that builders and architects took plans for the new settlements overseas with them. Quite the contrary, the models of reference were known by heart, and in every place were freely adapted to local conditions. Despite the variety of such local conditions and the apparently casual way the new settlements were structured, the urban tradition was strong enough to ensure a remarkable structural identity between Portuguese settlements.


Portuguese colonial settlements, either trading stations, forts or cities, were the instruments of a global strategy of

domination ofthe seas. They were located in key coastal locations, either 'to service and secure the sea lanes or to tap important sources of commerce. Whenever pos­ sible, theywerebuilton hilly land, thus maintaining the castrensian tradition of de­ fense on high ground that dated to pre-Roman times. The settlements were basi­

cally defensive nuclei, adapted to the morphology of the


control of territory . When

fortified places were associated with commercial activities on the seashore or on the margin of a river, they were

organized on two levels: the port and commercial activities

at sea level and the administrative buildings, basic institu­

tions, and most of the housing on high ground. The two

areas were connected by a more or less straight road that climbed the hilI, and in time would become the main street

of the settlement, the so-called Rua Direita.

their main purpose was the

The construction of an original citadel on the eminence of

a mount was a chief characteristic of the metropolitan

model of reference of these overseas settlements. In Oporto, in Portugal, the original castrum was located on top

of a hill. The military character of the settlements was clear.

Both Oporto and Lisbon were surrounded by defensive walls that had contained, successively, the Roman, Visi­ gothic,Muslim, and Christian cities. Also, both Lisbon and Oporto, the ultimate references of colonial city builders, were organized on two levels, uptown and downtown - a structure that would be adopted whenever possible over­ seas.

Within the fortified city, the best places, usually the top of thehills, werereservedforpublic buildings -the governor's palace, the town hall, the hospital, the misericordia (the public assistance building), and major churches and con­ vents. Thesebuildingswere solidly built, and theygave the city a sense of community. They also played an important role in organizing urban space. Together with the informal squares associated with them, they became focal points for the development of the urban tissue. The city was struc­ tured by the progressive articulation of these isolated nu-

RG. 1. The basic settlemen t fortofCoriate, GulfofOman, seventeenth century.



clei. The irregular trajectories of the streets connecting them were dictated by their apparently casual location within the urban structure. But, in fact, there was nothing casual about their locations. These corresponded to a strict order of society and to established relations of power between institutions.

This was the traditional structure of the Portuguese medieval city as rebuilt over­

seas. In Brazil, as elsewhere, the Portu­ guese re-created their European world.

S. Salvador da Bafa, which was the capi­

tal of Brazil from 1 549 to 1763, was a faithful replica of Lisbon and Oporto. Located atop a high scarp dominating a vast expanse of water, it was surrounded by fortified walls. Its hilltops were domi­

nated by churches and palaces, while commerce took place at the lower level along the quays.2

Goa, the political, commercial and reli­ gious capital of the Portuguese in Asia, is probably the clearestexample ofthe struc­ ture and spatial characteristic of a Portu­ guese colonial city (FIG. 2). By the end of the sixteenth century it had a population ofnearly 300,000 people, and it had been dubbed the Lisbon of the Orient because of its close resemblance to that city. In a location strangely similar to Lisbon's on the left margin of a river, Goa presented an irregular semicircular plan. Its streets described more or less symmetrical and concentric arcs centered on the down­ town area. By the river were the quays, the arsenal, the customs house, and - most significantly - the palace of the

customs house, and - most significantly - the palace of the RG.2. Lisbon ofthe Orient Goa,

RG.2. Lisbon ofthe Orient Goa, westcoastoflndia, late seventeenth century.

h .,11 I .�It t ""-' ".- : "',,' ""'0' " f� � . •
.�It t
: "',,'
" f�
• •A"
,:". :�:'""
- - - --

RG. 3. lisbon, late six teenth century. The basic reference of city builders.

Viceroy. A large street, the Rua Direita (or High Street), was both structurally and functionally the main street. Important commercial fu nctions took place along it, and it connected a number of squares where significant edifices were located. In the main square of Goa the Senatorial Palace, the Archbishop's Palace, and the Cathedral figured prominently. The College of S. Paulo, run by the Jesuits,

themisericordia, the Hospital, and other churches and con­ vents were also situated in privileged locations, constitut­ ing other focal points in the urban structure.

Representations of Lisbon of the early sixteenth century show the most prominent hill occupied by the old castle and the Royal Palace, the seats of temporal power (FIG. 3). To the

west and east, on top of the other hills, were the monasteries of Gra�a, Carmo, Trindade and S. Vicente. On an interme­ diate plane, the representations show the housing tissue in which symbolically distinguished collective buildings were set: the hospital, the tribunal, the jail, monasteries, and parish churches. The cathedral, although built half way up the hilI, was given particular prominence so that it inter­ fered in the profile of the city. The first plane, by the river, was occupied by the commercial zone and the port with its wharfs, dockyards and warehouses, among which the cus­ toms house stood out. The town walls were highly visible, and the old castle appeared as the key element of the defensive structure of the city, corresponding to the impor­ tance that was awarded to secular power in the defense of the city. Only the two main squares of Lisbon - Rossio and Terreiro do Pa�o - were represented. In Rossio were located the hospital and a second Royal Palace. In Terreiro do Pa�o were located the market, the docks, the granary, and, most importantly, the Casa da India, the warehouse where all the spices and merchandise from India was stored. Thus, at the beginning of the sixteenth century the vertical order of society was apparent in the graphic repre­ sentation of Lisbon: the prominence of royal power, the spiritual power of churches and convents competing with it, and the subordinate role of commerce. Later in the century, at a time when trading activities gained an increas­ ing importance in the life of the city and the country as a whole, the Royal Palace would be built by the river - the Par;o da Ribeira - in the heart of the maritime zone.

One notices in these representations the same basic struc­ ture and the same key elements that werepresentwhen new

cities were built overseas. Overseas cities were organized on different levels, the highest corresponding to its domi­

nant secular andreligious buildings, the lowestreserved for its maritime and commercial activities. Great importance was given to defense, as manifested in the choice of an elevated location and the construction oftown walls. Promi­ nence was accorded to community buildings. The squares around which these buildings were located became focal points in the organization of the urban structure. And the

Rua Direita played a structural role in connecting the port and the commercial area to the main square.

Basic characteristics of this somewhat informal structure can be traced back to the Muslim city. During their long presence in Portugal, from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries, the Moors left their imprint on the urban space




and architecture of many cities they occupied or founded . Whereas the basic element oftheRoman city was the street, organized in a checkered pattern, the basic unit of the Muslim city was the house. The layout of the street was not defined beforehand as in the Roman city; it resulted from the progressive joining of houses. This, the introverted

style of life, and the necessities of defense also contributed to the intimate character of the streets- winding lanes with different gauges and profiles, from which smaller streets

branched out, often as L-shaped alleys giving access to small clusters of houses. Climatic conditions further deter­ mined that the streets be narrow and shaded. The houses were turned inwards, and the rare openings into the street were protected by elaborate screens and blinds.

Muslim concepts of urban space and architecture were still very much alive in Portuguese cities of the sixteenth cen­ tury, and the urban spatial concepts of the Moors were important to the urban references and life experiences of those who built the new settlements overseas. Brazilian cities of the sixteenth century were in all aspects similar to medieval Portuguese cities, with narrow, irregular streets, blind alleys, Moorish arches, and balconies protected by wooden blinds - the muxarabis.3 These last, in particular,

similar to veiled faces, clearly reflected the Moorish influ­ ence that was exported to Brazil.

But the organic, somewhat irregular city was not the only model of reference available to Portuguese city builders . New kinds of settlements also emerged during this period, planned frontier towns surrounded by walls and built in elevated places. Despite the irregularity of the places in which these new towns were built, theirplans wereregular,

following a geometric pattern . In Portugal a number of such towns were built in the early fo urteenth century, particularly in Alentejo. Among these were Monsaraz, Redondo and Vila Vi�osa. The main structural element of these towns was a central street, the Rua Direita, that crossed the town longitudinally, connecting two doors opened in opposite walls of the town (or connecting the main door of the town with the castle at its opposite extreme). A small square was opened along this main street

at the center of the town, where the church, tribunal, and other important collective buildings were located. Secon­ dary streets were built parallel to, or at approximately right angles to, the main street, creating a regular urban pattern. Whenever a new town was built and there was enough centralized power to control its development, such geomet-



28 • TDSR 2 ric patterns were imposed. This was a radically different kind of urban

ric patterns were imposed. This was a radically different kind of urban growth from that generated around informal church and palace squares. Even so, the struc tural role of the main street in both types of development suggests a continuity. Even the apparently most casual urban areas had a certain degree of planning and contained references to the more erudite forms of urban structure that would be fully developed in the next century.

When new cities did not develop slowly from forts or trading stations, but instead were built rapidly, tradition was abandoned and Renaissance ideals were embraced.4 This happened particularly in India where a compromise between medieval and Renaissance concepts was estab­ lished. Damao and Ba�aim, built in the second half of the sixteenth century on the west coast of India, show a regular checkered pattern of streets surrounded by bastioned walls that clearly denote erudite Renaissance influences (FIG. 4). Neverth eless, the center of Damao contains a fortress, a reminder of the traditional structure of the Portuguese medieval city, instead of the regular square characteristic of Renaissance ideals.s

commerce in spices. Cities in India had to be built rapidly and effectively to defend against Muslim traders and make a show of diplomatic activity and ostentation toward powerful Indian Maharajas. Cities inspired by Renaissance ideals fulfilled these objectives appropriately.


Ilha de Mo�ambique on the east coast of Africa was first visited by the Portuguese in 1498 on their way to India. It soon became a mandatory port ofcall for ships on the Indian route. It offered protection against the monsoons and, most importantly, was an important center for the trade in gold, with which Asian spices could be bought in India. All the gold, silver and ivory that had been traded for cloth, metal artifacts, and miscellaneous item s on the coast of Mo�am ­ bique had to pass through Ilha de Mo�ambique. The

strategic importance of Ilha de Mo�ambique to the Indian trade was emphasized by the fact that after 1509 it was administered from Goa and its governor was subordinate to the Viceroy of India.

For decades the Portuguese fought the Arab Swahilis for

trade supremacy in the area. In 1507 the trading station was built. At first, this was only a small fort built with stones from ships' ballast, around which appeared the Portuguese settlement and the first chapels. But the

continuing reaction of Ar­ abs and Indians to the Portu­ guese intrusion in the Indian Ocean soon made necessary the construction of heavier fortifications. The fortress of S. Sebastiao was begun in 1558 on the northern tip of the Ilha, and by the end of the

sixteenth century the trading station was an important settlement with two fortresses, a hospital, churches, con­ vents, and many houses (FIG. 5). Religious orders played an important role in the development ofthe settlement. Among them were the Dominicans, the Jesuits, and the monks of S.

The urban structures of Por­

tuguese overseas settlements do not fall into pure types. The Renaissance ideal ap­ pears combined with medie­ val patterns in a work of syn­ thesis. Each settlement de­ notes a mixture oftraditional vernacularelements anderu­ dite elements. These vary depending on the time of their construction, the fact oftheir evolution either from previous settlements or vir­ gin territory, and the differ­ ent political attitudes and strategies that governed them. The cities of Brazil , which

had deep roots in Portuguese medieval tradition, were adequate to a policy of occupation that was made slowly during the sixteenth century. In India, on the contrary, it was necessary to proceed much faster and to mark an effective military and political presence to protect the

an effective military and political presence to protect the FIG. 4. The Ren aissance influence: Damiio,

FIG. 4. The Ren aissance influence: Damiio, west coast of India, begin· ning ofthe seventeenth century.

TEIXEIRA: PORTUGUESE TRADITIONAL SETTLEMENTS • 29 Joao de Deus, to whom large donations of land




Joao de Deus, to whom large donations of land were given. The Jesuits managed to become the owners of most rental houses on the Ilha.

Ilha de Mo�ambiquepresented a very rich ethnic composi­ tion. There were three main factors behind this: the loca­ tion of the island near the African continent, the important role it played in the commercial network of the Indian Ocean, and the integration of the island into the larger Portuguese empire.6 The population consisted of Bantus (the original inhabi­ tants of the island), Arab merchants and seafarers, Portuguese, mixed Portu­ guese-Indian Christian im­ migrants from Goa, and Hindu and Muslim Indians. Finally, there was a constant transit and settlement of people from all the other parts of the Portuguese empire - from Macao, Timor, West Africa and Brazil. All these groups left their ethnic and cultural imprint on the Ilha. But in terms of the urban form and the form of housing, the Portuguese contribution predominated.

At the beginning of the Portuguese occupation, settlers ' houses were temporary constructions similar to local ver­ nacular buildings both in terms of form and in use of material s. In the decades that followed, however, Euro­ pean houses began to be more solidly built and began to distinguish themselves from local buildings. Nevertheless, by the middle of the eighteenth century huts with palm leaf (macutl) roofs were still freely located among stone houses. The basic structure of the town was characterized by narrow, irregular streets that connected the fulcral points of the urban network: churches, convents, the Jesuits' college, the residence of the Captain-General, the hospital, and the squares usually associated with them. Along the coast were located the commercial buildings. These faced both the sea, for loading and unloading cargo, and the street, where goods were traded. The increasingly rapid development of

the town coincided with the establishment of the town council in 1761 and the beginning of land-leasing to private individuals. By 1800 the town had grown considerably toward the south, following the classical urban pattern typical of the time with regular blocks and broad, straight streets. The cottages with straw roofs began to concentrate in the southern part of the llha. By the end of the nineteenth century there was a clearly differentiated European "stone­ built" town, and a "macuti" town for local inhabitants. These were constructed of different materials, had dif­ ferent forms, and occupied different locations. The stone-built town on the north and the macuti town to the south were sharply divided by a line across the island.

the south were sharply divided by a line across the island. One may conclude that in

One may conclude that in the beginning of the Portu­ guese presence and in the first centuries that followed there was a great deal of cultural assimilation. This went as far as the adoption by the Portuguese of local vernacular house-forms and materials. Despite the pro­ gressive separation of the two basic housing types, there still persists an important element of kinship between them . The basic plan-type has been preserved through the years, and, remarkably, it can be found in both types . In fac t, the basic arrangement of the plan is the same for all houses, old and new, big and small, masonry or mud-built (FIG. 6). This plan-type is not purely Portuguese or Arabian, Indian, or Swahili. Apparently, it emerged as the most adequate solution, taking into account the available local materials, the local climate, and the natural living conditions of the island.? Nevertheless, one finds more than casual similari­ ties with house plans of vernacular houses from the south of Portugal. Therefore, it is likely that the Portuguese influence was the strongest component ofthe cross-cultural and ecological process that gave rise to it.

Externally, the houses also reflect the multiple influences represented in them, but the most notable influence comes

FIG. 5. IIh a de MOfambique, beginning of the seventeenth cen tury. The basic structure of the settlement



from Algarve, the southern region ofPortugal.8 The houses ofAlgarve have features thatare very similar to those on the Ilha: rendered and limed facades, detailed cornices, white painted window and door surrounds, a composition of facade with rectangular, well-proportioned, rh ythmically placed windows, pilaster strips that emphasize comers, and flat roofs for collecting rainwater (FIGS. 7,B). Arabian and Indian features can also be found in the details of other buildings, for example in church facades, but rarely in houses. It is internally, in decoration and furnishings, that the Indian influence was most clearly felt in the houses of the IIha.


Like other towns built by Portugal in Brazil, the urban layout of Olinda had its medieval roots imprinted in it. The apparent disorder of the urban structure was, in fact, a

The apparent disorder of the urban structure was, in fact, a FIG. 6. (left) Plan typesofhouses
The apparent disorder of the urban structure was, in fact, a FIG. 6. (left) Plan typesofhouses

FIG. 6. (left) Plan typesofhouses in IIha de MOfambique. RG. 7. (top right) Housin g typologies: IIha de MOfambique, "s tone-built" town.

RG. B. (bottom right) Housing typ ologies:


planned organization that accorded to medieval principles. Such principles, although not explicitly codified, belonged to a rich urban tradition , both Christian and Muslim, that the architects and builders carried with them.

Muslim, that the architects and builders carried with them. Olinda was founded in 1537 in the

Olinda was founded in 1537 in the region of Pernambuco,

the center of a vast hinterland of sugar plantations.

ing the Portuguese tradition, the top of a steep hill was chosen for the site of the town despite its being five miles from the sea. To compensate for this location, the small settlement of Recife was founded on a plain at the conflu­ ence of the Capaberibe and Beberibe Rivers. Recife pro­ vided the necessary fishing and port activities of Olinda. Unlike Portuguese colonies that lived from the sea trade, the economic basis of Olinda was agriculture and the


industrial activities related to the processing of sugar cane. Nevertheless, its urban layout was basically the same as




other colonial cities. Important administrative buildings

and monumental churches were locatedin prominentplaces,

structuring the urban space. There were clear affinities

with the urban structure of other cities, namely Goa and S.

Salvador da Baia.9 Recife, located on flat ground and with

limited functions mostly related to the port and the domes­

tic needs of its workers, had a rather simpler layout. It

consisted of a checkered pattern of nearly regular blocks

and streets around a central square where the church was


these new areas in later years was not rare. Houses built in

Recife in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the char­

acteristic houses of today's Recife, had strong Portuguese

roots . They soon replaced, or were literally built upon,

what the Dutch left, further contributing to the Portuguese

character ofRecife and the effacement ofthe Dutch legacy.

The duality between Olindaand Recife is further expressed

in the house typologies and architecture that grew up in them. The houses of Olinda have their roots in the Portu­

guese rural tradition: thick stone walls, one or two floors,

stone comers, thresholds and jambs, a dominant horizon­

tality of line, hipped roofs, and the overall squat look of

Portuguese Baroque buildings (FIGS. 10, 1 1). This house-type

was fully developed in the large mansions built by planta­

tion owners .!O These mansions were direct heirs to the

country manors of noble landowners in Portugal. Since

Both Olinda and Recife were destroyed following the

Dutch invasion of 1630. Of the two complementary settle­

ments, the Dutch preferred Recife, and they installed their

government there. The commercial and urban develop­

ment of Recife promoted by the Dutch meant that Olinda

lost its role as capital of Pernambuco. reserved the role of historical capital,

allowing the crystallization of its ur­

ban structure in a way that was charac­

teristic of a model of urban develop-


To Olinda was

FIG. 9. The Dutch plan of Recife, Bra zl1, late seventeenth cen tury.
FIG. 9. The Dutch plan of Recife, Bra zl1, late seventeenth cen tury.

Olinda was a center for a region of sugar plantations, it was

not surprising that this originally rural house-type took root

The type was easily adapted to tropical conditions

through local innovations: higher ceilings, walls that did

not reach the roof, lattice windows, shady verandahs and

internal courtyards.


Recife was rebuilt by the Dutch with a

strong defensive structure and a pre­

cise and erudite plan of orthogonal

blocks. The erudition of the Dutch

plan of Mauricio de Nassau repre­

sented (as far as Brazil was concerned)

a new concept of urban space and

urban structure radically different from

Portuguese conceptions (FIG. 9). After

the restoration of the sovereignty in

1654, the traditional practice of Portu­

guese city-building was resumed.

Olinda's urban network, closely tied

to topographical conditions, had re­

mained unchanged, and it was rebuilt

following original principles. In

Recife, the regular Dutch layout was

maintained, but further developments

of the town were determined by the location of new churches and the structuring of squares in

close association with them. The resulting urban tissue of

Recife is a mixture of erudite and organic growth, and, in

the end, is not altogether different from the layouts of other

Brazilian towns that occupied coastal areas adjoining their

original locations. The adoption of geometrical layouts in



32 • TDSR 2 FIG. 10. (top left) Country manor in Portugal. FIG. 11. (bo ttom
32 • TDSR 2 FIG. 10. (top left) Country manor in Portugal. FIG. 11. (bo ttom

FIG. 10. (top left) Country manor in Portugal.

FIG. 11. (bo ttom left)

FIG. 12. (below) Urban houses in Dporto.

Stately manor in Brazil.

FIG. 13.

(facing page) Th e continuity of tradition: houses in Rec ife.

page) Th e continuity of tradition: houses in Rec ife. The houses of Recife are radically

The houses of Recife are radically different. They are rather slim, are built to five or six stories, and have narrow frontages, high pitched slate roofs, and an extremely accen­ tuated verticality. The typical house of the merchant in Recife combined a shop on the ground floor with dwelling quarters aboveY This house-form derived from similar types ofstructure in Portugal, particularly merchant houses in Oporto. The slim houses of Recife are similar to the bourgeois houses of Oporto both externally and in terms of internal organization. Their internal order featured draw­ ing rooms on the first floor, dining room and kitchen on the top floor (on account of smells and the danger of fire), and sleeping rooms in between. Accommodations for servants were located in the attic. Stairs in the middle of the house were illuminated by elaborate skylights (FIGS. 12, 13). The houses of the poorer strata of society, both in Oporto and Recife, were basically the same, although smaller and less structured. A convergence of ecological, functional and cultural factors led to the adoption of this house- type in Recife. On the one hand, slim, tall buildings on narrow lots were the obvious solution to a scarcity ofland. On the other, a house-type that combined commercial and residential

The house of

Oporto, developed in similar circumstances, was easily and

uses best fitted the needs of the merchants.

successfully adopted.

The cultural influence of one society on another, by itself, does not rriean much. Unless deliberately imposed, cultural influences usually only take root if they find local ecologi­ cal, social and cultural circumstances to which they can be adapted - particularly if these are meaningful to the society being influenced. One finds in Olinda and Recife two completely different typologies of housing that had origins in Portugal. The house of Olinda, a town founded by Portuguese nobility and the center of a rural area, was heir to the tradition of a rural house-type. The house of Recife, a mercantile city par excellence, was derived di­ rectly from the house of the merchant bourgeoisie in Oporto. Both types had to find an intrinsic logic with respect to local conditions as well as adequate grounds for development. Neither occurred as the result of blind acceptance of available models.

The cultural influence of architectural models is a two-way process, and we find a good illustration of this in the Casas de Brasileiros built in Oporto and throughout the north of Portugal in the nineteenth century. These were the houses of former Portuguese immigrants to Brazil who returned rich to their homeland. These mansions, no matter how naive or over-decorated, were the heirs of the Baroque manors that had been introduced from Portugal to Brazil three centuries before. In this case the tradition was brought back to Europe, rich with acculturations as a result of meetings and miscegenations with other cultures in Brazil.




remains have been identified previous to the Portuguese presence. Knowledge and experience in the building trades, acquired from the Portuguese nearly five centuries ago bylocal builders, have been passed down from genera­ tion to generation . This has often corresponded with the preservation of building prototypes that embody today's vernacular architecture.

Material realities and specificity of local culture led in each Portuguese colonial settlement to a symbiosis of a unique character. Local ecological conditions in their broadest

character. Local ecological conditions in their broadest CO NCLUSION: A TWO-WAY I NFLUENCE The marks of


The marks of the Portuguese presence are felt to this day in many parts of the world in religion, myth, tradition, lan­ guage, art and architecture. Of these influences, the build­ ing activities of the Portuguese had the greatest impact. This accounts for the persistent influence of Portuguese

designs and building techniques in popular architecture. In many parts of the world Portuguese buildings were the first durable homes of the common folk. Aside from temples, palaces and aristocratic residences, in many places no built

sense were responsible for transformations in the built environment, both through the adapting of Portuguese models to local materials and climate, and the adopting of local typologies, forms, and models of reference. The composite models thus elaborated were often accepted as new types of vernacular architecture, and came to replace previously established models. These models were in turn carried to other places where they became archetypes in the creation of new forms. Such new vernacular forms were to a large extent the result of stimulant contacts with other cultures and values of reference. The transformations the



Portuguese brought in this field are further evident in the continued use of Portuguese words in .the building trades in many places where Portuguese settlement ended centuries ago and where Portuguese is no longer spoken.

All these things are strong reminders of the penetration 9f Portuguese culture around the world. The Portuguese were the first Western society most peoples of Africa, Asia, or South America came into contact with. These contacts were the first meetings between European and African or Asian concepts, and led to great cultural change on both sides.

Colonial settlements were vehicles for the transmission of Portuguese culture and civilization. Besides being poles of

defense and emporiums of commerce, they laid the ground­ work for cultural transfer and the symbiosis ofpeoples and civilizations. New concepts ofspace and architecture were introduced through them. The new functional meanings associated with these concepts carried an implicit new cosmology.

The architecture and urban spaces built by the Portuguese overseas are probably the clearest evidence of the impor­ tantrole the voyages of the fifte enth and sixteenth centuries played in the meeting and cross-fertilization of the cultures of the East and the West. That experience, of crucial importance for both societies, was in the West an essential component of the European Renaissance.


I would like to express my thanks to Prof.



Augusto P. Brandiio - Ana Figueiredo, Isabel


P.F. Santos, Formacao de Cidades no

G. Lucas, Margarida Valla, NUno Ludovice,

Brasil Colonial (Coimbra: G.<ifica de

and Paula Ramos - who dedicated much time

Coimbra, 1968), p. 19.


to the study of this subject and organized the



"A 'Cidade

p. 324.

First Congress of the Lusitanian Built


Santos. Formacao de Cidades. p. 40.

Patrimony in the World, in March 1987. All the above-mentioned colleagues were most generous in their help.

6. Secreteria de Estado da Cultura de M�ambique. lIha de MOfambique (Maputo. n.d.), p. 16.

1. G. Lefebvre, La Naissance de

L'Historiagraphie Moderne (paris:

Flarnmarion, 1971), p. 53.

2. M.T. Chic6, "A 'Cidade Ideal' do

Renascimento e as Cidades Portuguesas da

India," Garcia de Orta - Revista da Junta das Missoes Geog rtificas e da investigafao do

Ultramar Numero especial (1 956), pp. 319-

7. Ibid.• p. 64.

8. Ibid.• p. 58

9. M.J.M. Rodrigues. Olinda e Recife. Uma

situafao de Polaridade no Urbanismo

Colonial Portug uis (lisboa. 1979). p. 77.

10. E.V. de Olivera and F. Galhano. Casas

Esguisas do Porto e Sobrados do Recife

(Recife: Pool Editorial S/A. 1 986). p.22.

1 1 .

Ibid.• p. 24.







S E V E N T 0 S R V O L . , 9 9





S E V E N T 0 S R V O L . , 9 9












This paper aims at giving tangible meaning to the concept of traditional Chinese urban form,

to begin to dispel the vagueness that has hampered efforts by Chinese (and other) architects

and urban designers to draw lessons from Chinese urban tradition.

It describes the formal

structures of the pre-industrial cities of Southeast China, including Nanjing,Suzhou, Hangzhou

and Shanghai as examples, and it formulates seven characteristics of Chinese traditional cities:

the influence of an orthogonal model, the absence of the "square," the prevalence of the walled


street, the definition of two city centers, the establishment of the canal system, the

dominance of low buildings and evenly distributed small open spaces, and the use of tower and

topography to generate town identity.

Since the cities of Southeast China represented the final stage in the development of

urban areas in pre·industrial China, the paper can claim to be a general study of traditional

Chinese urban form.

The determination



characteristics was

not based on


property of the number seven; the author imagines that additional formal characteristics (with

similar value and significance) may be discovered by other authors. The characteristics have

been defined in contrast to features of the European medieval and Renaissance city, because

most architects and urban designers are acquainted with this system. After presenting each

characteristic, the paper explores its social, economic and cultural implications.

The paper

concludes by noting five traditional Chinese values embodied in the formal characteristics.

Pu Miao. a Chinese Architect amd planner, currently resides in San Francisco. California, U.S.A

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1978, Chinese architects and urban designers have resumed debate on the possibility of borrowing from China's built heritage to design the environment of today. However, the use of the term "traditional form" in these discussions remains vague. Even though everyone involved seems to bear specific im­ ages of an old Chinese village or city in his or her mind, few