An example of happy marriage

Not being sure if it can be applied to people and their marriages, I claim that, as far as urban spaces are concerned, huge age difference is not an obstacle to living happily together. I believe the secrets are in mutual respect and in communication, the dialogue between the two. And here is the most creative example from my current city, Porto: the intervention of the architect Pedro Balonas at its Lisbon Square, completed in 2012.

For some decades, the Lisbon Square was a neglected and unsafe place, an eyesore in the very center of Porto. Around 2005, the city authorities decided to improve it. It took some time, about 6 million euros and a lot of architectural sensibility to get to the harmonious matrimony of the historical and the contemporary Porto at that very spot.

Only a person knowing and caring a lot about the place, and also knowing a lot about architecture, could moderate the dialogue between these two so successfully. Pedro Balonas is undoubtedly that kind of person. On the occasion of 250th anniversary of the Clerigos tower, a series of lectures was organized  in Porto during winter 2014/2015, and I was lucky enough to be at the opening session with Balonas as the main guest. Listening to the text he presented, “A máquina de olhar” (“The vision machine”), was as powerful and touching experience as passing through the newly built space itself.

The triangular shape of the plot, the differences in levels, the inherited subterranean garage, and, of course, mighty historical neighbours (the Clerigos tower, the Lello bookshop, the University of Porto Rectorate, the Lions’ Square, the CFP building) were all huge challenges, masterfully resolved by the author.

I have browsed through my photo-documentation and found some interesting material to share: the “before” and “after” of the Lisbon Square I captured in 2010 and in 2014/15. The photos I took these days tell more than words about the dialogue and understanding between the old and the new. Maybe adding just one thing to understanding the images: the hydroponic olive orchard on the roof is not merely an architectural fashion – it is charged with meaning, as next to the Clerigos there once was a city wall with the so called “Olival Gate” (Porta de Olival).

praca lisboa porto photo carlos

Before: this old aerial photo of the Lisbon Square comes from:

Porto praca lisboa 2010

Before: my photo from the 2010 visit.


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After: the same spot, 2014/2015.

Enjoy the rest of the photos!





Porto in the Geotaggers’ World Atlas

Eric Fischer geotaggers map of Porto

This map of Porto is one of a hundred city maps created by Eric Fischer, an American software developer and data artist. I have found it in his 2010 Flickr collection named “The Geotaggers’ World Atlas”. In that project, he used geographical metadata associated to the photos. The data from Flickr and Picasa helped him reveal the locations where people most frequently took photos in various cities around the world.

So, this is tourism in Porto visualized! Besides the historical center inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, tourists flow most intensely along both shores of Douro and the Atlantic coast within the city limits, all the way to Matosinhos. The remaining three bright nodes outside the historical city center are the Crystal Palace gardens, Casa da Música and the Serralves museum. Everything we already knew, now confirmed and represented in this elegant plot!

I enclose a map of another Portuguese city – Lisbon, of course, but the interpretation will be postponed until my next visit to the country’s capital.

Eric Fischer geotaggers map of Lisbon

I found some other Fischer’s projects and hobbies also interesting to look at (“See something or say something”, “Locals and tourists”, his old map collection on Flickr…). And I wouldn’t know about him without the Álvaro Domingues’ lecture on the city and its icons I attended in Porto on December 18th, 2014.