Aqueduct of Malagueira—Complexity or Contradiction

Rodrigo Lino Gaspar

This film is part of series of posts of selected papers from the study symposium at Shatwell Farm, hosted by Drawing Matter and convened by KU Leuven and TU Delft on 27 and 28 April 2023. More about the symposium, and other films and written papers, can be found here.

In his sketchbooks, Álvaro Siza describes the Portuguese city of Évora as the ‘white city with granite’. This poetic connection is immediately recognizable when contrasting the city’s dense white urban fabric with the granite monuments of its historic centre. This analogy is referenced in this piece of a new town that constitutes Malagueira housing estate, a project dating from 1977, where white row houses overlap with a strange concrete body that crosses the neighbourhood streets. First designated as conduit, this element is later elevated to aqueduct.

Malagueira projects the work of Álvaro Siza beyond borders. International critics rediscovered the architect of Casa de Chá da Boa Nova in what some deem to be the last great social housing project. It is analysed mainly through an urban and typological lens—the conduit is scarcely mentioned, sometimes omitted, and even criticised. Architect Rafael Moneo doesn’t understand it, concluding that the project could exist without this element, which he describes as monumental, evident and rhetoric.

Based on an array of primary source materials from Drawing Matter’s Álvaro Siza archive, mostly unpublished—48 sketchbooks, 110 project drawings and 560 photographs—this analysis seeks to build a new understanding of Malagueira project, of its goals, references, pre-existences of place and conditions, in an attempt to establish the fundamental role of its aqueduct.

It’s about the search to build a city with (or centered around?) time, imagining evidence between sustainability, brutalism and Arte Povera (‘Poor Art’) to create a new urban place—resilient and timeless. The aqueduct embodies what Álvaro Siza describes as another scale or the introduction of a new complexity. The result is a self-referential element, an artificial pre-existence—a contradictory body that raises more questions than it gives answers. Should we consider Malagueira an example on how to build resilient cities?

The drawings for Malagueria can be viewed on Drawing Matter’s collection catalogue.


Rodrigo Lino Gaspar is an architect and researcher at CEACT/UAL. Having graduated from DA/UAL in 2009 with the Master Thesis 100 Possibilities to inhabit Lisbon, he participated in SIA workshops’ Marginal and Connections, and collaborated with architectural practices in Lisbon and Geneva on major urban design and architecture projects. He is a currently a doctoral candidate at DA/UAL’s PhD Program Contemporary Architecture. His ongoing research, funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia I.P, is focused on understanding how a transition to democratic systems has changed the architecture of the city.