Fertile Grounds: Cultivating an Identity Through Architecture
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This thesis explores the contributive role of architecture to the prosperity of a place. The research addresses the challenges and opportunities that rural regions face today by analyzing the general factors of marginalized rural communities through the lens of a specific community in mainland Portugal. A new approach for maintaining an authentic character, and a “sense of place” is presented which defends rural space as a genuinely experiential realm. The thesis proposes the design of a modern day treatment and research centre in the rural town of Manteigas, situated on one of the largest glacier valleys in Europe in the heart of the Serra da Estrela mountain range. Once alive with all the quaint characteristics that typify an idyllic rural identity, this town now faces a steep population decrease. Situated in the centre of the Zêzere glacial valley overlooking the town, the design accepts and interprets the natural geology of the site, harnessing the therapeutic thermal waters that continue to flow from the glacier line of the valley. The new centre represents not just a place for leisure and relaxation, but also an investigative laboratory for modern day natural healing therapies. The town of Manteigas is situated within three very distinct landscapes: a fertile landscape, a socio-cultural landscape, and a landscape of health and wellness. The design intervention responds to all these conditions and is dependent on each in its operation. This thesis is a proposal for a sustainable cycle of local and regional rejuvenation that will not be easily broken. The design proposal aims to build an infrastructure that will revive the identity of the community as a place of study and implementation of natural healing. The proposed design will also act as a catalyst to fuel future development and stimulate the local and regional economies.
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