The main campus of the City of Lisbon University is based at a site called “Cidade Universitária,” meaning “university city,” that was first envisaged in the 1930’s.
The plan was designed to accommodate the main academic buildings of the University of Lisbon namely, the law, medicine and humanities schools. Since this initial layout and construction, there has been a gradual process of growth to accommodate various other buildings, most part of the University of Lisbon, but not exclusively.
The main campus has increasingly grown to become part of the city and has become more lively and stronger as a centre for research. However, this expansion has meant the site presents a certain lack of fluidity, walkability, comfort, and interconnection between faculties, sports facilities and outdoor environments.
Hardscapes, carparks, arid, plant-less patios, and a high concentration of obstacles to the pedestrian dominate the campus environment. Spaces of encounter at an intimate scale are scarce, and the siting of the academic buildings has created space between buildings that is neither comfortable nor inviting for people. Students and staff seem to concentrate in inner environments, faculty cafes and the very immediate entrances of some buildings, denouncing a lack of affordability of the space for walking, outdoor activities and physical exercise — crucial actions for stress relief and well-being during the stressful life phase of degree completion. Moreover, there are very few spaces common to all academic faculties and used by students across the campus with exception of a common canteen, the rectory, and the national library that borders the campus. Yet again, the connection between these common facilities and the heart of the campus is not inviting for the pedestrian, so most faculties operate as self-sufficient facilities.
The Portuguese climate and car-dominated culture influence how students, university staff, and visitors use and interact with the university environment. The Alameda, meaning “alley” or “axis,” is the central lawn strip surrounded by the original faculty buildings; it acts as a representational or symbolic space yet lacks real purpose or designated use. Surrounded by roadways, the Alameda’s expansive scale and lack of planting or manmade shade covers make it an uninviting space. These features seem to be typical of other outdoor spaces throughout the university campus, where cars are given priority over pedestrians, trees or man-made shade structures are missing to cool users during the hot summer months, and little outdoor protection is afforded during Lisbon’s rainy winter months.
Since an university campus is increasingly a branding image to attract more and better students, researchers and public and private partners, an investment for improving specific aspects of the outdoor environment at the University of Lisbon seems worthwhile, even if only in the spectrum of a theoretical discussion. The Lx Campus Ideas Competition aims at exactly this, envisaging how Lisbon’s “Cidade Universitária” campus can provide more and improved opportunities in the daily life and well-being of its students, staff members, neighbouring residents, visitors and general citizens.
The aim of the Lx Campus Ideas Competition is to challenge all stakeholders in a wide range of disciplines, including landscape architecture, architecture, urban design, planning, sociology, environmental studies, environmental psychology, education, public health, and anyone else, to examine and re-envision the campus In the general reflection of the theme of this conference, focusing on the concrete case of the area of the City of Lisbon’s University City.
Free of planning, financial or other restrictions, competitors are encouraged to examine, analyse, and provide ideas for an achievable design solution to the campus’ masterplan and to at least one (1) intimate, smaller-scale outdoor space. Competitors should consider the following:
– Placemaking, how the creation of memorable, symbolic spaces can strengthen the City of Lisbon University’s brand as an unrivalled centre of higher learning in Portugal
– Improvement and/or introduction of usages and affordances in existing outdoor spaces for a variety of current and previously excluded individuals, small and large groups
– Inclusion of affordances for users of all the life phases — Childhood, Adolescence, young and Middle-age Adulthood/Family Life, and the Elderly — on the site
– Increased opportunities for physical interaction/encounters across the student body, between faculties, and among staff members, visitors, neighbouring residence, and general citizens in outdoor spaces
– Improved circulation for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists
– Interventions to address climate, especially Lisbon’s hot summer months and rainy winter months
– To discuss how the University City complex relates to its urban context
Through ideas generation and a design response, the Lx Campus Ideas Competition seeks to create a platform for discussion between competitors, university administration, faculty, students, general citizens, politicians and other interested parties.