The “script” of a new urban layout: mobility, environment and embellishment in Lisbon’s streets (1850-1910)
This article is at the crossroads of two scholarly traditions: the history of technology studying urban infrastructures and the history of urban planning. Using the Actor Network Theory’s concept of “script,” it analyzes the strategic role played by the street to overcome nineteenth-century urban problems. The street was simultaneously the epicenter of the “urban question” and the key to its solution. This role explains why urban planning played a unifying part in the agenda of urban improvements, as a response to mobility, environment, and embellishment problems. However, urban planners did not dictate the evolution of Lisbon. This article argues that Lisbon’s transformation was the result of tensions and compromises between different actors (public authorities, technicians, businessmen), and of diverse impulses (sanitary, economic, and emulative). Moreover, it argues that the heterogeneous character of nineteenth-century Lisbon demonstrates the need to zoom in on the street. ANT provides the heuristic framework for understanding these interactions.