“Colónia agrícola de [Santo Isidro de] Pegões.” [Santo Isidro de] Pegões (Municipality of Montijo, Portugal) agricultural colony [Pegões Velho nucleus]. Land preparation in front of the newly built dwellings, 1950’s?. Photography by Mário Novais (1899-1967) © Calouste Gulbekian Foundation (CFT003.65144-65220).



In Portugal, agricultural development and colonization schemes were hardly implemented, creating few modernist rural landscapes. Agricultural development and colonization policies were discussed repeatedly across Portuguese history, to face demographic and dependency on foreign wheat issues. Under Salazar’s rule, the country’s common lands (baldios) were surveyed with the intention of reallocating them to poorer farmers. The established Junta de Colonizaçao Interna (JCI) realized a few settlements (7 to 8 colonies from 1926 to the mid-1950s). These colonies included several hamlets, some on a grouped, and others on a dispersed pattern. Portuguese agricultural development and colonization schemes were a trial and experimentation process which, however, had important impacts on:

1) landscape: the common lands were mainly reforested, visibly changing the countryside. In parallel, important infrastructures for grain production and processing, as well as dams and power stations were implemented in preparation for an expected increase in agricultural production, where the JCI played a crucial role;

2) state-building: the JCI also played an important role in shaping Portuguese technocracy and national scientific agenda;

3) national culture and identity: the JCI’s works embodied the regime’s discourse about the ‘New man’, the centrality of the traditional family, the role of the countryside as the authentic repository of Portuguese identity;

4) the shaping of Portuguese expertise and professions: the main modernist stylistic debates in architecture and planning also permeated the JCI, which published parts of it. The JCI was an incubator for modern expert and professional cultures in the fields of agriculture, geography, anthropology and architecture, whose works strongly influenced the emergence of modern and contemporary Portuguese architecture and landscape architecture.

ADCS in Portugal has attracted limited scholarship, mainly PhD and Master theses (Castro Caldas, 1988; Brouwer, 1995), in part due to its limited impact on the actual landscape. Fresh documentation from the JCI has been located and has to be collected and processed to advance scholarship. Interesting questions are the dialectics between the Regime’s officials and the JCI experts, which generally held more progressive views.

Nowadays, Portuguese modernist rural landscapes face a general disregard. Reforestation works have undergone deep changes due to the pressures of urbanization. The former colonies are not well preserved. Their settlers are poor and ageing, facing ownership issues (land is still baldio, discouraging investments to drive change and adaptation). Modernist rural landscapes are not being considered as heritage, and show uneven states of preservation.

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