The Cycles of Impermanent Alterity in Nazaré

The Cycles of Impermanent Alterity in Nazaré

Cidália Ferreira Silva (University of Minho, Portugal) and Marisa Carvalho Fernandes (University of Minho, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4186-8.ch018


What happens when a small city expands from 15,000 to 100,000 inhabitants in the summertime? How do temporary inhabitants of Nazaré (Portugal) change the rhythms of its everyday life? How does large-scale tourism change their supporting economic activities or even replace activities such as fishing? Is this seemingly rigid urban fabric elastic enough to expand and adapt to these exponential “others”? The “impermanent alterity” explains the result of the relationship established between land and water, between the “I” and the “other” that come to Nazaré to step onto the warm sand during the summer days. There is a visible cycle of summer-winter change, which the network of lived time interconnections can be found in simple things like the gray pavement line organizing uses, as a device that adapts matter to the cycles of change. Time is the operator of this “impermanent alterity,” and the residents and outsiders alike make it visible.
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I have seen land made from the sea. Sea-shells have been seen lying far from the ocean, and an ancient anchor has been found on a mountain-top. What once was a level plain, down-flowing waters have made into a valley; and hills by the force of floods have been washed into the sea. What was once marsh is now a parched stretch of dry sand, and what once was dry and thirsty now is a marshy pool. Here Nature sends forth fresh fountains, there seals them up; and rivers, stirred by some inward quakings of the earth, leap forth or dry up and sink out of sight. (Ovid, 1916, pp. 383, 385)

Because of its extensive beach and remarkable waves, Nazaré has been a vacation destination since the 1950s, with tourists arriving from all over the world between July and September. The population rises from 15,000 to 100,000 inhabitants during the summertime. This chapter explores the impermanence of Nazaré’s beach, seeking to understand how the community invents ways to adapt to the unstable rhythms present within the village, that are connected to the uncertainty of the relationship between water and land, and to the gigantic influx of tourists. This discussion has five guiding questions: (a) How do year-round residents adapt to embrace so many 'others'?, (b) How do these temporary inhabitants change the rhythms of Nazaré's everyday life?, (c) How does large-scale tourism change the supporting economic activities of Nazaré's inhabitants by complementing or even replacing fishing?, (d) Is this seemingly rigid urban fabric elastic enough to adapt to these exponential 'others'?, and (e) How do people adapt to the unstable physical support of this cultural landscape where the water and the land has created a ceaseless, changing balance?

The argument is structured in three main parts: (a) ‘Between place-idea-approach’ explains how the idea of ‘impermanence’ was located in the research case study, and how this unstable topic was approached; (b) in ‘Cycles of impermanence’ three interconnected cycles of impermanence are unfolded – between summer and winter, day and night, and lived time and geologic time –with different scales and rhythms; and, in (c) in ‘Approaching impermanent alterity, the authors disclose what they learned about impermanence in Nazaré. Lastly, in the conclusion, the researchers present future research developments and highlight what could be useful to others who aim to study transient time themes related to the landscape.

The chapter aims to first make visible the character of the cycles of impermanence, using both written discourse and original visual mapping, in a sample of the study, and second to explain the methodological approach to impermanence requiring an exploratory path created by an open and uncertain process of research coherent with this unstable thematic. This method has a guiding motto: How to find a representation – both visual and written – close to a theme which a transient character keeps defeating the ‘frozen’ object?



This chapter is a longer version of a paper presented on a panel discussing “Cities of the Forking Paths: Intercommunal (dis)harmony and the Rhythms of Everyday Life” at the SIEF 2015 Congress. The specificity of the panel triggered the research on the theme of impermanence in Nazaré through the lens of its identified cycles and rhythms and was supported by what had been addressed in Fernandes’ master thesis (2014).

This thesis explores the thematic of impermanence in three main time approaches: linear, relational, and lived. Through these times, the transformation process of the place is decoded by its geomorphic characteristics, intrinsically related to the old Lagoa da Pederneira and the administrative Coutos de Alcobaça. This process reveals that impermanence is more than a simple cause-effect, but becomes a relational inter-action between land-water in the impermanent tendency of the place to become water again and again. Here, the focus is on the cycles of impermanence.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Becoming-Belonging: The pairing of becoming-belonging sums up the stimulation of landscapes’ adaptability as a mutual core between vocation and appropriation where researchers and designers participate actively in their transformation even when they are simply researching them.

As Found: “As found,” as introduced by Alison and Peter Smithson, is a new way to see the ordinary, to discover all the signals of a landscape that could recharge the energy of our creative and research activity. You glean what you encounter. As found is a practice of letting go of wanting the perfect thing, the perfect idea, and to be(do) with whatever comes to meet you.

Instability: Lack of stability; inconstancy. It is associated with the variation of permanence, that is, to the mutability in the apparently stable form of things. It is intended, therefore, to convey that the transformation occurred is not punctual and static but constantly changing in uncertainty, giving primacy to time even when trying to understand space as a means to namely stimulate landscape’s grounded adaptability.

Impermanence: Impermanence is the coexistence of both permanence and non-permanence, which in simple terms means “permanence in change.”

Lived Time: Lived time is the presentness of living in which infinite time(s) is woven in indeterminate ways through a trans-time condensation that generates uncertainty. This lived time uncertainty unfolds through the not-words of lived time discarded by the rational mind: the unexpected, the unknown, the impermanent, the unforeseen, the unpredictable. Lived time implies the researcher be a be(do)er while dwelling on his or her research-design project. From life comes life, from evasion, comes evaded knowledge. You are a doer when you embrace being a being. The present tense is the tense of lived time. Things are at the same depth they become. Open your ears, your heart, and see the unseen, seek the unsought, seed the unsown. Impermanence is what makes everything possible; open to it and lived time will flow within you.

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