The evolution of urban fabrics. Source: Santos, João Rafael Santos (2012)

1940’s – the first stages of suburbanization become to be felt as small subdivisions are located in the small valleys converging in the railway stations. Existing rural roads are used as the backbone for growth. A largely agricultural landscape persists in the surroundings of the small urban settlements inherited from past times.

1960’s – the electrification of Sintra railroad line triggers the expansion of new residential areas resorting to private-led piece-meal subdivision operations. Fabrics are often organized in closed block patterns, with multi-family typologies in areas close to the stations, and single-family houses tracts along roads towards the periphery. Small to medium scale industry is located in nearby sectors.

1970’s and 1980’s – intensification of urban growth, not only through higher densities, with wide-spreading of multi-floor housing and expansion outwards. The first generation of suburban development (based mostly on single-family from the 1940’s) becomes to be replaced by new and larger buildings. Public space amenities lack short of parking, green areas and urban facilities.

1990’s – the urban subdivision process extends towards large tracts of former agriculture land. No longer determined by proximity to the railway station, these new urban areas fill in the space in-between the older settlements. Car accessibility is the key driver of such transformation. Large building companies and the banking sector (through the residential low-interest loan market) become active players in urban development, offering affordable housing to low- to middle-income metropolitan residents.

2002-2008 – Polis urban regeneration program intervenes in the central areas of Cacém and Agualva, around the Jardas water stream. Considerable contribution to public space comfort and quality, environmental amenities, traffic flow, and new urban facilities.

Post 2008 – The economic crisis impacts heavily on the real-estate market, putting many urban development projects on hold. Change of perception regarding development model is also integrated in national and municipal planning guidelines, fostering compactness and limiting changes from rural to urban land. Environmental resources and green corridors are gaining prominent role in local development policies.