The SAAL Process at the CCA: Architecture, urban planning and community

Updated: May 9, 2018


Raúl Hestnes Ferreira. Elevation of proposed development, Caçada neighbourhood, Fonsecas, Portugal c. 1975. Porous point pen, graphite and colored pencil on translucent paper. Coleção Hestnes Ferreira © Raúl Hestnes Ferreira

Delfim Sardo, curator of The SAAL Process: Housing in Portugal 1974-76, took me and a handful of other participants on a tour of the exhibition at the CCA, which includes photography, video, text, sketches and blueprints, as well as detailed models of the featured neighbourhoods.


As we began the tour, Sardo explained, “There’s not one SAAL, but many SAAL processes.” The CCA is spotlighting ten of these unique housing projects, out of the 170 Sardo described tens of thousands of families were involved in.


The SAAL process, Serviço Ambulatório de Apoio Local or Local Ambulatory Support Service, began in 1974 after the Portuguese revolution. Sardo expressed how Portugal had to face the problems of the fallen dictatorship, namely the poor living conditions for the working class. There was a need to build houses and deal with the “islands” of slums within the historical centres of major cities, like Porto and Lisbon.


The SAAL Process: Housing in Portugal 1974–76, installation view of the exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, May 2015. © CCA, Montréal.

SAAL offered a “technical brigade” composed of architects, lawyers and social workers to these slum associations and groups in order to help them design new neighbourhoods. These brigades invested enormous amounts of work and time figuring out how to occupy what Sardo described as “empty urban spaces.” Even though these projects were not always completed or built at all, it raised important questions about community and social responsibility.

This is just an excerpt. To read the full review, check it out on Montreal Rampage.


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