Becas & the intangible heritage of Porto

António Guimarães, alias Becas, has been present in Porto’s nightlife for decades and marked it significantly. A 100% night bird, he somehow made it to the Porto Creative Mornings last Friday, to tell us about the history and present of nightlife&creativity in this city. And so I discovered that Aniki Bóbó does not only stand for a film, nor Passos Manuel is merely a street: one used to be an iconic bar (existed since 1985 but closed in 2005, though), and the other, cinema for authors’ films and a stage for many other cultural events, still exists and is back to life since 2004 thanks exactly to Senhor Becas.

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This cultural space is situated in the Coliseu of Porto, recuperated by the architect Pedro Gadanha. Its particular atmosphere attracts famous musicians (the opening concert was of Anthony and the Johnsons), but also brings out new talents.

And Becas, he’s an electrotechnics professor who somehow went off the beaten path, became an organizer of all kinds of cool events and even a DJ himself!

The only trouble with him is that he wouldn’t put his memories on paper (nor record them in some other way). And that means some precious memories of Porto as it once was might be lost forever.

 

Porto, the bank of materials.

The Bank of Materials of Porto is one of the newest initiatives of the city authorities in the realm of built heritage. It was opened in 2010, with the idea to collect the repetitive elements from the Porto façades: the ones being in disrepair, or the ones about to be demolished or modified. If a citizen needs to rehabilitate a façade, the Bank of materials provides them exemplars of the repetitive elements (be it tiles, stucco, stone or cast iron details) at no cost at all.

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Not only this is useful in restoration of built heritage, but it’s also enchanting to see examples of materials used for construction and decoration in Porto over centuries, all at one place! Most of the exhibits are ceramics and tiles, dating from 15th century to the recent times, but there are also hundreds of stuccoes, various wooden, stone and iron artifacts. Such as ancient street or commerce name plaques, that were duly saved (while many of them actually still proudly remain on the buildings).

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Porto is the city of respect for the things old, I deduce!

Many thanks to Zé for this discovery 🙂

MOONtosinhos.

What a lovely night yesterday! The night of full moon, the night I discovered the MOONtosinhos!

MOONtosinhos is an event organized by the City Hall of Matosinhos and the archaeologist – historian named Joel Cleto. Joel is a charismatic person, passionate researcher and writer on heritage, knowing every nook and cranny of the city, including legends and stories of forgotten or neglected places around us.

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For a while now, on the nights of full moon, he organizes little guided tours around the neighbourhoods of Matosinhos. Not knowing what to expect, I was shocked when I saw 150 people late on this Sunday night, ready for a walk with Joel. A lot of different folks, youngsters and retired, or the middle-aged, of various backgrounds and education, but all curious and respectful towards the past and the inherited.

There was quite a lot to learn from this experience, as far as I’m concerned: bits and bobs about the heritage of Matosinhos, simple and creative ways to organize an event, and above all realizing the importance and love for heritage in everyday life of Portuguese.

More info on Joel Cleto and the future events: http://joelcleto.no.comunidades.net/index.php

Special thanks to M. for surprising me with MOONtosinhos!

Portugal and Porto within ERIH

ERIH stands for the European Route of Industrial Heritage: it is the tourism information network currently presenting over 1 000 industrial heritage sites across 43 countries. ERIH started as an EU project – the network was developed between 2003 and 2008, and when the activities within the EU framework ended, it continued its life through an association registered in Germany (that explains the excellent contents and organization!), so it still expands. ERIH has various categories of membership, depending on type and content of a site, as well as various types of industrial routes.

Portugal currently has 22 sites in the ERIH network (for a comparison, Serbia has 3 sites in total in the network, and BiH has 1). Three of them are in Porto: Dona Maria Pia/Dom Luis I bridges, Electric Tramway Museum and Solar Vinho do Porto. They are linked to some of the main experiences this city has to offer a visitor: one could not imagine Porto without its wine, or trams or bridges! I have already visited a wine cellar for an amazing tasting experience, and seen all the six bridges of Porto, including the two above mentioned, the wrought iron achievements from the epoch of industrial revolution here.

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Gustave Eiffel designed the Dona Maria Pia bridge (1877), while his collaborator, Theophile Seyrig, designed the Dom Luis I bridge in 1886. The latter is still in use, while the former has been closed for all traffic, recently cleaned and repainted, and remains an amazing monument that spans river banks and times.

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More about ERIH at: http://www.erih.net

The house in Alenquer

Another post about the Aires Mateus brothers!

Just because I am amazed with this decisive project of theirs, that is exactly about harmony of old and new, about giving new, contemporary life to a ruin and enriching the meanings of the new structure.

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 The project is, however, from the past century (the house was built between 1999 and 2002). Initially, the plan was to adapt the old stone house in Alenquer near Lisbon, and the first version of the project was developed in that direction. And then, the old structure partly collapsed, so the architect brothers started thinking differently. The problem became an opportunity, a potential for the new whole (too bad there is no photo of the old house anywhere online, nonetheless one of them can be found in the recent monograph on Aires Mateus brothers’ work by Francesca Vita)!

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The old walls embrace the new house (and the swimming pool), protect the privacy of the owners and create a lot of multifunctional nooks and crannies. The volumes of the new structure’s first floor overlap the ground floor and thus create shade or shelter in case of rain. And everything is in white & wood, enhancing even more the sense of unity of two epochs in this contemporary casa portuguesa!

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The houses on the sand

A weekend house project that turned into a Venice Architecture Biennial entry and a very particular hotel …

In 2010, the Aires Mateus brothers were invited by a friend to do a rehabilitation project for one of a group of three traditional small houses (or more accurately, auxiliary buildings) in the Natural Reserve of Sado Estuary, at Comporta, one hour drive southern from Lisbon. The project then evolved into rehabilitation of all three and building a new pavilion, combining old and new materials and at the same time respecting the spirit of the place and local building traditions.

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So reed was introduced instead of roof tiles, and small interventions were undertaken on the façades and in the interiors of existing buildings. The new building was constructed of wood and reed too. All in all, two are of wood and reed, and two are of firmer materials. The little yard that all the buildings are opening to is their binding element as well.

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And what do the sandy floors mean? The architects said inspiration was coming from an exhibition in the Tate Modern they visited at the time when the project was being developed (exactly the installation with talc created by Cildo Meireles). By introducing sand into the living spaces, everyday life was made much slower and the perception of time changed, explains Francesca Vita in the 2013 monograph on Aires Mateus brothers I’m currently reading.

For now, there’s no way to experience the place in person, as the stay costs 500 – 600 EUR a day, depending on the season. But someday, who knows …

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The latest reports!

I am sure all Portuguese already know about it, still very excited to share the important and amazing link:

http://ultimasreportagens.com

It is a website of Fernando Guerra, the architect and architecture photographer, containing a whole bank of images related to contemporary Portuguese architecture. And not only Portuguese! He has founded the site together with his brother. His greatest privilege, as he says, is to work with Siza and be the photographer of Siza’s architecture.

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Note to self: research thoroughly, investigate how he sees the relations of contemporary and inherited in architecture!

More about Fernando Guerra in this interview:

http://www.knstrct.com/architecture-blog/2013/01/30/the-man-behind-the-camera-of-modern-architecture-an-insightful-interview-with-fernando-guerra

And a big obrigada to my special source of information 🙂

Viewing Arouca.

Some weekends ago, I visited the town named Arouca, situated not far north from my base, Porto. I went prepared, of course, and the preparation was based on studying the referent pages of Saramago’s Viagem pelo Portugal (its Serbian version, that is). Saramago said it all about the Monastery of Arouca and St. Mafalda’s grave, a must-see of the place and a classified national monument, where I spent an educative morning myself.

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I got to know the town center and made a photographic record above. And then I went to a belvedere some 8 kilometers from the center, to see the entire Arouca valley and the chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Mó (Our Lady of Mill Stone).

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The view speaks for itself, but for the chapel a brief history / legend needs to be told. The building probably dates from the 16th century, and the legend goes much further in the past, refering to miraculous liberation of a local christian that was captured by a Moor somewhere in 1027. The christian was pressed with a mill stone, and that’s where the chapel’s name comes from.

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I looked at the IGESPAR’s inventories and was surprised not to find the chapel registered. Upon a little internet research, it turns out the building was not at its best and only recently repaired, with some imposing additional elements next to it.

Arouca is also famous for its geological heritage, of international relevance (more at the site of recently established geopark: http://www.geoparquearouca.com).

Galo Louco, Part 3: Platu (getting to know Portuguese designers)

“Platu” is not merely a beautiful object: it is directly linked to interpretation of the Mediterranean nutrition pattern, and thus to promotion of the intangible culture of the country. So, let’s tell the story!

Thanks to a recent transnational initiative, Portugal has just got its second inscription into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: in 2013, the Mediterranean diet was added, based on the joint proposal, also including Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Morroco, Italy. In the inscription document, the Mediterranean diet was defined as a “set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking, and particularly the sharing and consumption of food”. Every country that submitted and application has designated a representative municipality that best reflects contemporary presence of the Mediterranean nutrition tradition. For Portugal, the city of Tavira in Algarve has been selected (note to self: got to go there!)

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“Platu” (2008, with recent update), a work of the Portuguese designer Miguel Pinto Félix, is dedicated to one of the pillars of the Mediterranean diet – the olive oil. It is the plate meant for the refined experience of olive oil tasting. The form resembles an olive tree and bears to mind fluidity of the oil. It is “an olive tree designed for olive oil”, explains the designer. This example shows how much vitality contemporary design can gain through connections to tradition and local inheritance.

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Galo Louco, Part 2: The Whistler (getting to know Portuguese designers)

Being interested in the issues of cultural identity, art&design and sustainability in Portugal, I have learned a lot recently, thanks to the research initiated at “Galo Louco”.

The Portuguese are probably well acquainted with these designers’ work, but for me they are wonderful new discoveries!

Every morning I have my cereals from the well thought-out and cleverly designed part of “The Whistler” collection, conceived by Raquel Castro. I chose it for its aesthetic qualities, not knowing anything about the background. But I researched a bit and here is the story behind it:

As we know, Portugal is the world’s major producer of cork, an environmentally friendly, reusable and recyclable material. This country produces about 50% of total world amount. An innovative practice of recycling cork has also been developed in Portugal. In 2008, the “Green cork” project was initiated, with the idea to recycle and reuse cork stoppers. The project started as a partnership between Corticeira Amorim and Quercus, the main Portuguese environmental association, and then spread to Spain, France, Italy and UK in Europe, as well as to USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

The applications of cork seem to be endless: besides the use in architecture and building, clothing and footwear can be made of cork, as well as furniture and decoration. It is also used in the areas of health and beauty products, pollution control and even energy production. The possibilities for its new applications have been constantly discovered, too.

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An outstanding, creative example I found in “Galo Louco” is the “Alma Gémea” (“Soulmate”) line of products that combines cork and ceramics – a result of cooperation between the most prominent cork and ceramics producers of the country. One of the collections within the line is named “The Whistler”, as an hommage to the biggest cork oak tree in the world, located in the region of Alentejo. The designer was also inspired by the traditional pottery of Alentejo. The cork part of the product was made of recycled cork stoppers. In this example, the sustainability issues and cultural identity considerations were brought together and interpreted in a creative process.

The Whistler tree is 230 years old, it is harvested every 9 years (next time in 2018), and the last harvest was enough for about 100 000 cork stoppers! Here’s the amazing tree:

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