Coordination: Ana Patrícia Alho

The Office of History, Art and Culture of Water is a research and dissemination group based in CLEPUL of the Faculty of Letters of the University of Lisbon.

Water is one of the essential elements for human life and, as such, has always been one of the most analysed elements in regard to its place in nature and its symbolism.

From the earliest beginnings of mankind, water is mentioned in documents, whether written, artistic, philosophical, medicinal or cultural. Water is also sometimes bound to delimit the territory, which leads us to state that in relation to its symbolic meaning, water is mentioned as a source of life in religious writings, from the Bible, such as Genesis, to the Koran, and of course, in philosophy, notably by Aristotle, and many others.

The study of the water cycle has always been something that motivated the interest of thinkers, and it was in the sixteenth century, thanks to Bernard Palissy, that much was evolved in the knowledge of this theme.

In a historical-artistic perspective, it can be said that water first appears as a theme, and only later as an integral material of the work, being frequently represented in painting and sculpture through symbolic and allegorical images.

In the context of monumental hydraulics, related to architecture, this line of research uses a concept of architecture as an articulated set of systems that are implemented by the master builder in a phased way. The hydraulic system is an architectural subsystem that can be understood in terms of its double development: one refers to drinking water at ground level (lower hydraulic subsystem) and another to rainwater (upper hydraulic subsystem), as well as a link between these two subsystems, which, in turn, affect the organization of the building.

This group, dedicated to the study of the History, Art and Culture of Water in Portugal, from medieval times until the modern period (13th to 18th century), has the following objectives:

- Promote scientific research by proposing multidisciplinary individual or collective research projects related to History, Art and Culture of Water;
- Stimulate contact with national and international researchers working on similar themes to encourage networking;
- Create solid connections with national institutions protecting heritage, allowing the application of the knowledge resulting from academic research in the works of conservation and restoration of buildings and built hydraulic heritage, in their technical activities and in their events;
- Provide support academic works of researchers of the University of Lisbon and other institutions, in masters, doctoral and postdoctoral levels;
- Disseminate the results of the resulting investigations through publication in national and international scientific journals. To carry out dissemination and training actions for the general public and specialized audiences, through the organization and participation in scientific events (both national and foreign) - colloquia, workshops, seminars, free courses - as well as the development of multimedia products and preparation of study visits or thematic guides;
- Development of actions to promote and disseminate this work;
- Provide consulting services for the development of research projects and valorisation of heritage.

Projects and expected results up to 2020

The projects of this Office for 2017-2020 derive from the doctoral thesis “The hydraulic system in Portuguese Gothic religious architecture. 13th-16th centuries”, presented to the University of Lisbon in 2016. Likewise, the relations already established with European researchers in the scope of the project financed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, “Water in the Palace of Mafra: Glancing over 300 years of History. Preliminary concepts” are also reinforced. Within the framework of this project we will organise an International Conference, an exhibition and will publish a book with the overall project results.
We also aim to submit to public and private institutions several research proposals related to dissemination of heritage, in areas related to this Office, always from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Research Members
Ana Patrícia Alho
Dolores Herrero Ferrio 
Marjolaine Charles 
Pedro Machado
Vanda Lagarto

Scientific Consultants
Fernando Grilo
José Manuel Mascarenhas
José Matos Silva