Report on the debate "Porto (what) Sense?*"
by Alexandra Areia
The organization of the debate about the rapidly growing urban transformations occurring in Porto’s city centre stems from the conviction that these questions need to be broadly addressed and discussed, especially by architects. However, this could never be a strictly disciplinary debate – it would not be possible to understand the role of architects in the current process of urban regeneration without including the other elements involved and encompassing the broad diversity of points of view. As predicted, the debate was heated, yet among the many disagreements and oppositions, opinions were clarified and some consensus was reached. It was discovered that many of the phenomena that currently affect life in Porto’s city centre originate from deficiencies and fissures in Portuguese legislation, making the exertion of pressure on the central political power a priority. Yet, it was also defined that there is a certain failing of public institutions and an increasing loss of their representation as regulatory agents for the transformation of cities. The debate also focussed on the importance of active citizenship and an increasing participation in public discussion forums and project plans. However, it also became evident that the mechanisms available for this are far from being efficiently functional and that people feel that even when they participate, they are not really heard. The need to move forward with concrete measures that can be quickly put into action was also approached, leading to the conclusion that the diagnosis is far from being complete and that many more debates would be needed to understand the full complexity of the problem. And as for the role of architects in these questions, the debate clarified that there is an effective lack of adherence to public discussion forums and an absence of responsibility in the preservation of currently non-classified patrimony, ending with the affirmation of the non-existence of a public dimension of architecture – a discipline that is becoming increasingly “privatized”.
Jornal Arquitectos (J—A)
Ordem dos Arquitectos
Alexandra Areia, Carlos Machado e Moura, Pedro Jordão
Report on the debate “After the party: new projects”
By Fabrícia Valente
After the party: new projects is the first debate organized by the current J—A editorial team, following the edition dedicated to the theme National Representations. After an issue focussing on three great international exhibitions – Venice Architecture Biennale, Milan Triennale and the Les Universalistes exhibition by the Paris Delegation of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – this debate is a moment dedicated to understanding the more or less direct consequences that these international exhibitions can have on the work of architects. To talk about architectural debate and criticism today is to also talk about temporary exhibition spaces, especially the ones that have fixed periodicities, such as international biennales and triennales. After the party questions if visibility results from these events and if professionals are offered project commissions as a result of that visibility. After the participation, what kinds of invitations are extended, if any? Is there a linear reading of the before and after of the work of the represented parties? The answer is not simple and many times some temporal distance is necessary to understand its real reverberations.
Drawing on extremely different experiences and aiming for a plurality of responses, J—A brought together five architects/ateliers: Célia Gomes, Pedro Reis, Fala Atelier, Paulo Moreira and Artéria Arquitectura, moderated by Inês Moreria, to present their points of view ranging from ideas on atelier evolution, to looking at projects and representations in which they participated.
The consequences of participating in international exhibitions seem to vary according to different practices and exhibition processes. In the case of the ateliers, it brings the fruition of projects as well as new research and procedural challenges, deconstructing classic learning methodologies of architecture. Inês Moreira talked about the growth of architects through the practice of building construction as well as other “deviating” – or not – experiences of their careers, causing the speakers to question their positioning within architectural practice. The debate affirmed the importance of the bipolarity of architecture between practice and theory, and made evident the role of the exhibitions in attaining international visibility, while also demonstrating some difficulty in understanding what is or is not a cause and a consequence. It is perhaps in this fluidity of events that the real gain is achieved, offering a different dimension to the “party”, with different velocities according to the different generations here presented, in a mediatisation of architecture based on an analogue visibility versus the current constant supply of images and information about content that is disciplinarily specific but also easily accessible to all. Representation events are increasingly translated into experiences that stray from what until now was understood as an exhibition, a building construction or a workshop, and often also translated into alternative projects, where representations also question these frontiers, provoking the loss of perception of all the participants and actions before, during and after the party.