The project is based on the idea that recycling the Cais do Porto – the city of Porto Alegre quayside – will only possible when the investors and the community establish their interests concretely, including both their goals. What is important now is to encourage them by showing all the potential this space has for integration with people’s daily lives in the city center, giving it a new asset: the aquatic life. For the harbor area to be part of the city, it does not matter whether the wall is there or not – what matters is to meet people’s interests, making them want to gather there for celebrations, exchanges, parties, cults and all the other activities involved in urban life. Building, refurbishing or readapting buildings or parts of the city can only be successful when the demands are identified and met. Unfortunately, the example of urban redevelopment “islands” that are fully accessible but do not meet people’s interests has spread worldwide. The Cais do Porto should follow the example of all successful cities: offering accessibility, spaces and negotiation.
This area conversion has been planned to identify and respond to these demands, showing the community and economic players the viability of turning the waterfront into the great catalyst of the city center’s renovation. What we are designing are the vectors of this transformation, not a preliminary draft of buildings. Only by conciliating the interests that emerged in this first stage will we be able to create a new and definite architectural program and design.
The Rua da Praia, an important axis of the city center’s development, is once again moved to the edge of the city, where the Guaíba Lake is, as a symbolic gesture also filled with practical meaning. This creates an axis that is parallel to the previous one, highlighting a quartered area in the city center. The four vertexes formed will play an important role as vectors for the city center’s development:
1 – The Esquina Democrática Vertex is the heart of the city where all the quadrants meet. It has a consolidated commercial calling and is being redeveloped along with the 24 Hour Center;
2 – The Gasômetro Vertex (Gasworks Vertex) has a vocation for culture and leisure and concentrates a lot of people on the weekends, but remains isolated. It should offer more activities and its road network should be more integrated with the city center, which has been approached as the city’s rear area instead of its front.
3 – The Trensurb/Public Market region is traditionally known as the city’s “last stop”, the daily point of arrival, exit and overflow of thousands of people. The space’s small size is what causes difficulties. The establishment of fluvial transport, the occupation of the harbor area to create a bus terminal (with exclusive access through the bus station viaduct) and the occupation of two warehouses to restore the Free Market to its previous place along with the investments made on the Public Market will give the Intermodal Vertex the necessary conditions to meet the current and future demands.
4 – The Intermodal Vertex created a focus of interest for large companies, offering lots for building world-class hotels, business centers and event venues. A private marine and two recycled warehouses like the Fair and Event Center can permanently attract new people to the city center. This vertex aims to reverse the so-called “city center decadence” which results from the removal of services that cannot requalify their spaces there. The revitalization of this area as a “business center” is supposed to sprawl along av. Mauá, Siqueira Campos and Sete de Setembro.
These four polarized vertexes will create secondary driving axes that will radiate a process of revalorization of the whole quartered area. It is important that the area is managed by an office open to suggestions and functions through certain criteria rather than strict and pre-established indexes. It is possible to predict the development of at least four main axes:
A – The Rua dos Andradas axis is already defined as a “cultural corridor” and unites the commercial and cultural vertexes;
B – The Borges axis, which cannot be expanded, is a commercial axis that canalizes the quadrangle inflow and outflow.
C – Based on the city’s gasworks adaptative reuse, the Gasômetro/International Vertex axis has been planned as a leisure, culture, tourism and service axis and carries a strong symbolic meaning. It is where the Guaíba Lake meets what is left of its natural borders (without the landfill and without a wharf). OSPA’s location, associated to the existing and future facilities, enables the transformation of the DNOS workshops into a Gastronomic Center.
D – The Cais do Porto axis is a nautical and touristic service axis.
Between the two longitudinal axes A and D there will be a summation of interests with the provision of many parking spaces, transportations, services and leisure activities, as long as all the streets that are transversal to these axes connect the Cais do Porto to the old city center.
WAREHOUSES "A" AND "B"
The solution to the problem of recycling the warehouses “A” and “B”, adapting them to new functions, emerged from a simple proposition: designing a replica of them on a 1:1,5 scale inside its geometric centers. This solution successfully includes both the functional aspect and the design concept.
Functionally, this design stance creates two big internal halls protected by “poches” located between the external and internal envelopes of each warehouse. One of those halls at warehouse “B” works as an assembly hall that can hold plays, auditions, projections (including touristic and didactic presentations) since the wharf has been recently incorporated into the city’s cultural life. In the other hall, at warehouse “A”, we propose a space for exhibitions, small fairs, parties and other informal activities. The stores, bars, restaurants, information center, ticket office and other activities requested by the competition brief are distributed in the “poches”.
Conceptually, this project establishes a practical discussion about architecture at the end of the millennium. What is authentic and what is fake in the postmodern times? What is the difference between the external original warehouse and the internal replica? Reproduction, copy, repetition and duplication have motivated artists in every art field for a long while. Rarely do we approach these issues as directly in architecture as this project has allowed us.
THE LAKESIDE WALL
We have approached the lakeside wall along avenida Mauá in this project as something that already exists, a project data. The solution we found was to transform it into a foundation or retaining wall, elevating the harbor lakebed. The result is a pleasant public walkway, since it is higher than the city’s level but is not a bridge or an artificial street. The raised access is worked like a common street, with sidewalks and lanes for public transit and services. Under this paving, there is a big linear parking area for both the Cais do Porto and the old city center, which helps to make the reoccupation of the wharf economically viable and ensure a permanent income for the DEPREC (State Department of Harbors, Rivers and Canals). There are 600 parking spaces divided in three sectors. The parking area also provides service access to the facilities designed for the warehouses. The solution of offering access at the end of each transversal street to av. Mauá changes the wall and adds a dynamic character to it, transforming it into a new reference in the old city center.
Some parts of the wall were opened and other parts had the height reduced in 80cm. All these openings can be closed if necessary.
THE FLOATING WHARF
The “Rua da Praia” inside the river is a wood wharf based on painted iron cylinders that floats fixed by anchor piles every 50m. These piles work as lighting towers as well as support for the boats. This is an affordable solution and answers the request for safely implementing a marina in Porto Alegre, since the access to the boats is easily controlled. Besides that, it also allows the harbor area to interact with the boats and all the activities related to it. One or two cranes can remain at the harbor to provide maintenance services at one of the warehouses when needed.
Cities whose urban value is recognized do not have elevated highways or tunnels in its urban centers. This solution not only does not solve the traffic problem but destroys what is more important to the existence of urban life: the non-segregated or non-specialized use of the city streets. The access to Cais do Porto does not need elevated highways and bridges. Crossings at every corner with signs for the pedestrians are enough.
On the other hand, the Cais do Porto cannot remain an isolated island. It is important that the movement of people and vehicles be as normal as it is in the rest of the city. We have designed this whole region to be “alloted” as a continuation of the old city center, allowing an organized movement of buses, taxis, minibuses, private and service cars and pedestrians. It is the combination between the services and activities offered and the movement of vehicles and people that will bring excitement and safety to this “new” zone in the city.
To enable better access to the Intermodal Vertex, we suggest that the elevated highways’ existing exit projected over the Trensurb station functions as an exit from avenida Castelo Branco towards the Cais do Porto. It can be a two-way viaduct loop, since the three lanes that descend towards the Conceição Tunnel and the U-turn are oversized due to the heavy traffic (each of these lanes goes towards different directions: the bus station, av. Mauá and the tunnel, and two of them continue through the Mauá causeway!)