When your final drawings are pinned up at the end of year exhibition, it is very easy to forget about the hundreds of drawings that preceded them. Quite often the development sketches are lost and the design process is simplified to a few polished renders. For me the most enjoyable aspect of design is exploring the multitude of possible options, testing ideas and experimenting with form and materials.
This first instalment looks back at a few pages from my university sketchbook. All of the following drawings explore initial ideas for a masterplan project based in Porto. As a group we focussed our study on a forgotten part of the city, an area characterised by abandoned buildings and trapped by major infrastructure. The site offered huge potential - an extensive waterfront dominated by roads and crumbling buildings and steep topography creating incredible views over the River Douro and city beyond.
The impact of the railway and the motorway became a key focus during our initial discussions. We began to explore methods of bridging over and under the infrastructure, allowing the landscape to regain control. Initial thoughts for combating the topography were explored, building on existing methods already established in other parts of the city.
Reducing the impact of major infrastructure
Wanting to create a better connection between the city and the river, and drawing inspiration from the terracing of the Douro valley, we proposed stepping the landscape down to the edge of the water. Jetties extend out into the river providing invitations for boat mooring and river taxis. A mixture of soft and hard landscaping occupies the space between the jetties with integrated seating. We explored the idea of using the terracing to clean the polluted water from the river Tinto and Torto. Aqueous planting removes the impurities from the water and provides additional habitat for local ecology.
Connecting to the River Douro
The masterplan sits on the outer bend of the river Douro, so we explored the opportunity to harness the fast flowing water. Beneath the jetties, turbines generate energy, which could then be used to power a cable car transport network. A disused railway was transformed into a cycle path and a new market square was proposed on the waterfront.
The Jetties, Market Square & Disused Railway
Looking closely at the existing housing typology in the city, the steep landscape forces buildings to be recessed into the ground creating access at both ground and first floor.
Using this precedent we developed rows of housing that worked with the natural topography. Shared gardens with communal allotments weaved through the terraces attempting to foster a strong community amongst the residents. Public transport links were improved, reducing the need for vehicles and giving priority to pedestrians.
Developing the Housing
These last sketch masterplans illustrate how the overall design developed over the course of the project. To see the final drawings and the completed masterplan check out the ARCHITETCURE section – UNLOCKING THE ISLAND The Campanhã Masterplan