Decoding (Sub)Urban-Rural Fragmentation Processes: A Morphogenetic Approach in Lisbon Metropolis

Decoding (Sub)Urban-Rural Fragmentation Processes: A Morphogenetic Approach in Lisbon Metropolis

João Rafael Santos (CIAUD, Faculdade de Arquitetura, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9932-6.ch001

Abstract

The spatial complexity of metropolitan territories is the result of the accumulation of various forms of urban and infrastructural development, some of which can be characterized as being based on a fragmentary mode of production. The chapter aims at building an empirical approach to a broader discussion regarding spatial fragmentation as part of metropolitan territorial development using an example on an important suburban territory in the Lisbon metropolitan area (Portugal). As such, it will provide a conceptual review of contemporary urban and morphological approaches to metropolization and the issue of urban-rural relationships, an overview of Lisbon's metropolitan development and the specific changes identified in the case study, the overview and results of morphological analysis regarding land subdivision processes, and a discussion on a design-oriented description of territorial components with potential to reinforce the spatial synergies of urban fabrics, infrastructures, and open space.
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Introduction

As a process, spatial fragmentation reflects an accelerated dynamic of transformation, a common feature of the 20th century urbanization around the world. It mirrors changing patterns of land use, land value and economic rationale, as well as new functional and spatial configurations brought by strongly disruptive physical elements such as heavy traffic and transport infrastructure. To a large extent, the spatial complexity of metropolitan territories is the result of the accumulation of various forms of urban and infrastructural development, some of which can be characterized as being based on a fragmentary mode of production. The understanding of this phenomenon is a difficult and still widely unexplored task, especially when considering the spatial, morphological and procedural perspectives, on one hand, and the variety of empirical evidence. The call to address the everyday landscapes of residential sprawl and dispersion is not new. Seminal studies regarding the spatial configurations of today’s metropolises, both at an overall scale (Font, 1999; Oswald & Baccini, 2003; Panerai, 2008) and at the scale of specific elements and structural spaces (Boeri, Lanzani, & Marini, 1993; Font, 2012; Muñoz, 2004; Vecslir, 2007; Viganò, 1999) are important contributions. However, limited work has been made exploring the variety of land transformation processes involving the rural parcel-to-urban plot change. In Portugal, urbanization processes have significantly relied on piece-meal rural land subdivision, making it a fundamental topic to understand them.

This chapter explores findings from the research project entitled Adaptpolis - Beyond urban fragmentation - infrastructure, landscape and territorial design for Lisbon Metropolitan Area (adaptpolis.fa.ulisboa.pt) based at Lisbon School of Architecture of the University of Lisbon, aimed at developing knowledge on the topic of urban spatial fragmentation and metropolitan regeneration to tackle ongoing socio-economic adjustment. In order to develop further urban and territorial regeneration strategies, the project’s goal is to consider and decode the processes behind the multiple phenomena of fragmentation: in the process of urban growth, in the laying of heavy infrastructures, in the disruption of landscape and environmental continuities, in the clashes of everyday’s mobility. With a forward-looking perspective, the project aims at providing smart combinations between spatial development, network cohesion, landscape regeneration, its financing, and alternative land-uses.

A specific case-study in Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA) – Cacém-Massamá (Figure 1), in the Municipality of Sintra – is being used as a test-bed for a number of analytical tools, critical assessment procedures, strategy and policy inception, and prospective design – all with actor involvement through partnering with local authorities. This site is located in a suburban corridor (Figure 2), 20 km west of Lisbon, in which the research critical issues can be found: a peripheral location originally developed around a suburban railway line, later followed by a metropolitan radial motorway – IC19; low quality residential development, poorly developed network of public space and urban facilities; spatial and scalar fragmentation between urban fabric, open spaces and natural features; poorly integrated mobility networks, with weak links between urban settlement and public transport infrastructures.

The chapter aims at sequentially build an empirical approach to a broader discussion regarding spatial fragmentation as part of metropolitan territorial development. As such, it will provide 1) a conceptual review of contemporary urban and morphological approaches to metropolization and the issue of urban-rural relationships, 2) an overview of Lisbon’s metropolitan development and the specific changes identified in the case study, 3) the overview and results of morphological analysis regarding land subdivision processes, and 4) a discussion on a design-oriented description of territorial components with potential to reinforce the spatial synergies of urban fabrics, infrastructures, and open space.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Spatial Fragmentation: The result of multiple processes converging in the break of continuity, contiguity and morphological coherence of urban, rural and natural spaces and networks.

Plot Subdivision Patterns: The morphological expression of different subdivision process, providing the basis to understand the relational rationales between land plots, street, and infrastructural configuration and building typologies.

Urban Subdivision: A legal process by which one or multiple rustic land parcels are subdivided, readjusted in geometric layout and served by infrastructural amenities to support urban land uses.

Urban: Sophisticated socio-economic systems primarily based on the industrial, financial and knowledge-based transformation of resources, information, and capital, organized at territorial levels through highly connected technological systems.

Land Plot Persistence: The expression of stable spatial elements associated with older land parcel configuration which resisted territorial transformations overtime.

Urban Splintering: A socio-spatial process characterized by the fragmentation, deconcentration, and differentiation of access to urban services, infrastructural networks, and spatial amenities, associated with the economic rationales of liberalization, privatization and globalization.

Rural: A socio-economic system primarily based on the exploitation of natural resources with pre-industrial technology, hierarchical geographic configurations, and local fields of the relationship between markets, government, and community.

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