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Background and idea

Alfama is one of the oldest districts of Lisbon, with a unique make-up of urban streets, stairways and courtyards, narrow and intertwined, that rise from the river Tagus to Campo Santa Clara. The small, slender houses, the balconies with flower boxes and clothes left out to dry, fado music and other aspects that characterise the Alfama district, make it an extremely attractive neighbourhood for tourists. Nevertheless, the district is home to a population with limited financial resources as well as an aging population, crime, vandalism and, above all, feelings of inertia amongst its youth. Although Alfama appeals to the tourist industry, with its magnificent views and where each corner could serve as an inspiration for a painting, it is extremely quiet outside the festival period known as Santos Populares. The Campo de Santa Clara, which is a vast space with a beautiful market, appears abandoned on days that the flea market does not take place. The lack of signposts means that parts of the neighbourhood, including Campo de Santa Clara, are not often visited, leading to a degree of inactivity in these areas. Moreover, the local trade is becoming too dependent on the flea market to survive.

Alfama is a living example of a community that has everything to become one of the most successful of Lisbon, with added value to organising a micro-scale urban intervention that is low cost, and that uses existing resources.

From this framework, the A Linha initiative has created a set of routes that streamline alternative ways to reach the paths to Campo Santa Clara. It is hoped that these micro-urban interventions will create a visual line, leading the visitor and local residents to discover the different parts of the district, actively taking part and taking advantage of existing spaces.

Constituting a network of routes composed of 4 differentiated lines (red line, green line, blue line and yellow line), with stops created through a methodology of urban land dynamics, and a varied programme that handles specific characteristics of the neighbourhood and overlaps with new mechanisms of stimulation and rehabilitation of public space, the project wants to bring greater social cohesion, which has entered into a state of decline in recent years, as well as the possibility of a balance of a more uniform development in the entire area of Alfama.

Around the area of Alfama we propose and organise street games for children, expanding trade to the streets (animating the dynamics of the streets with local shops), film projections on buildings (creating temporary outdoor cinemas) and other varied activities.

The proposal has the support of the local Parish Councils, Schools and the Association of Free Times of Alfama, that operate as a group of participants and ambassadors for the entire project. The development activities have the active participation of the local population and require the construction of urban interventions and collection of materials in 'Materials Banks', to be used in the various activities promoted. The idea is to use local labour, qualified in accordance with the projects carried out, so as to achieve an appropriation of spaces required and the involvement of all.

The Project

A Linha is a programme that follows a methodology to facilitate gradually the construction and maintenance of the neighborhood by its inhabitants. The development of several steps has, since its beginning, assumed a greater involvement with the community. What is desired is to observe, explore, experiment, build and present, enabling the essential objectives: 1. Revitalisation and promotion of public spaces of Alfama; 2. Pedagogical development of local children to support inter-generational isses; 3. Motivation of local communities by fostering active citizenship and promoting local trade.

To revitalise and energise Alfama and its communities, A Linha presents several alternative routes throughout the neighbourhood, leading to an understanding and interaction with the neighborhood spaces in crisis as well as their transformation by creating gardens and cultivation, organising shows and cultural activities promoting gastronomy, commerce, sport and leisure. Involving everyone in the upkeep of public spaces that belong to them, encouraging creativity and combining different disciplines and knowledge, while always taking an inter-generational and inclusive attitude.

The activities promoted follow the same kind of structure, yielding 4 complementary routes, all with the aim of providing living spaces, activities and locations conducive to creativity and self-organised initiatives.

Four Lines, Four Paths

1. Freephone This line is dedicated to gardens, meals and street spaces for sitting / living on the street. It is work done with the local population, the ATLA (Ateliers de Alfama FreeTime) and schools that hold small workshops for children and adults, the ATLA and Parish Councils that comprise Alfama. Children are instructed to make a visual survey of what exists in the chosen locations and design ideas on creating green spaces in the neighbourhood. These early interventions include drawings, models, photographs, videos and small plants, outlining the groups responsible for future maintenance. All ideas gathered in workshops underpinning the project, are then presented to the community in a small public exhibition of the work created by children and adults. The establishment of a group, to transform gardens and create small structures, is monitored by the Atelier Urban Nomads, the project promoter. The constructions are made by residents with existing materials in the area that are, where possible, reusable. A body has been set up that is responsible for the maintenance and promotion of those spaces. Throughout the intervention, the process is documented via a database and an online monthly publication distributed to the local populations.

2. Red line This second route will identify potential sites and events or street activities such as concerts, dances, film screenings, theatre, circus arts, etc. Like the first route, it will continue to work with schools, involving both children and adults, and initially organising (indoor) workshops on the subject of outdoor activities. Ideas for the necessary infrastructure will be collected in workshops and, once more, will be constructed from materials collected by residents in the area. A team will be responsible for the maintenance and dynamism of these spaces. The transformation process is also documented online and in the monthly publication.

3. Blue line The third route identifies potential sites for temporary thematic markets, i.e. those markets that want an energising trade and handicrafts. It also allows shops, cafes and local restaurants to set up business for a day some place new in order to attract more customers to its original base. Following the same structure as the previous organisation and implementation of the project, this activity involves the creation of a variety of market stalls that will circulate throughout the neighborhood at different times / days of Market, enabling us to discover new spaces in Alfama, pushing people to explore new streets and alleyways, and squares old and new. The idea is to serve a meal for the entire local population and for all who participate in the market, with a long table created by the sellers’ own market stalls.

4. Yellow line The fourth course wants to identify potential sites for the implementation of urban playgrounds, i.e., spaces for street games (ping pong, monkey, rope skipping), but also spaces for toy libraries, for instance, where playfulness is all that it takes to be safe on the street.

The implementation structure is similar and what is intended - through the theme and the variety of equipment and furniture – is to promote the meeting of different generations and the exchanging of knowledge. Also, the project is documented here as before.

The above-describedd four lines will appear on a map, to be distributed and available to anyone who wants to know the heart and soul of Alfama.


In 2012, A Linha won the programme of BIP / ZIP, created by the Lisbon City Council with the aim of supporting projects aimed at the development site of Neighborhoods and Priority Intervention Zones in Lisbon; neighborhoods that for various reasons, need a fresh dynamic and an answer to their many problems. This support enabled the design and development of the project by the Atelier Urban Nomads, with the support of established protocols with the Local Parish Councils, some of the schools in the neighborhood of Alfama and ATLA. The materials used for the interventions and other facilities were mostly donated by Gebalis (organisation involving the Management of Municipal Districts of Lisbon) and the Military Maintenance (manufacturers of wooden pallets). The construction of the facility was run largely by community members with expertise in this area, having been paid for their work with the money provided by BIP / ZIP since it was intended to provide the opportunity to employ people in the area who are unemployed. There was also voluntary work carried out by some of the partners that tried to make themselves available whenever it was needed. The involvement of residents and children, with the guidance of Atelier Urban Nomads, allowed for the development of all parts of the programme.

Links and other sources


PROMOTERS Atelier Urban Nomads; atelier à

Bip / Zip programme to encourage social intervention in Neighborhoods and Priority Intervention Zones, created by the Lisbon City Hall http://habitaçã @

PARTNERS Parish of S. Miguel: Parish of S. Vicente de For a: Parish of St. Stephen: ATLA Association of Free Times of Alfama: Group of Schools Gil Vicente: Voice of the Worker: