Mira

Porto is an ever-inspiring and creative city. But Campanhã area is certainly not the first that comes to a cultural wanderer’s mind. Yet, there is a gem there that I only recently discovered.

A short film festival was my pretext to finally visit Espaço Mira and Mira Forum, two adjacent former warehouses that now work as artistic spaces. One is primarily an art gallery, the other is multi-functional and has a commercial component (offers a possibility to rent the space for book presentations or exhibitions – we all have bills to pay, after all).

I arrived a bit ahead of projection time, knowing that Mira pursues more than one initiative at a time and curious to peek into the exhibition spaces. What a warm welcome we had by Manuela Monteiro, who lead the visitors throughout the ongoing exhibitions! Together with João Lafuente, she created Mira three years ago, in October 2013. They uncovered the potential of the row of abandoned warehouses in Rua de Miraflor, that even played a part in their families history. Former storage spaces for coal and wine were converted into spaces of culture with a lot of respect and sensibility.

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One of the current exhibitions in Mira lead me to learn important facts about the cultural landscape of Algarve and the threat of complete eradication it has been exposed to because of the aggressive oil extraction initiatives. The initiatives have been stopped for now, but drawing attention to the problem is of huge importance. With its engagement, Mira gives hope that art may be able to save the world!

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Last but not the least, the Mira experience inspired me to share a (holiday) thought: all we need is less.

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Rua José Falcão 199

The José Falcão street is often on my way: the office is situated almost around the corner and the number 199 can’t remain unnoticed: the neo-arab building with a fascinating façade in the middle of Porto stands out, even if it is clad with azulejos like so many other historical houses there. Azulejos are exactly the keyword to understanding the existence of such an edifice: the house number 199 was once the ceramics warehouse of the important Devesas factory, situated in Vila Nova de Gaia.

I entered there once or twice before, thanks to the friends’ recommendation – a very good restaurant occupies a part of the ground floor. But a few days ago, I had an opportunity to learn more about it. On the occasion of the European Heritage Days (this year’s theme was industrial and technical heritage), a guided tour was organized by the municipal Culture department about artifacts of ceramics industry in Porto. The starting point – José Falcão street, 199.

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The representative façades of this building, dating from the beginning of the 20th century, were meant to demonstrate the vast array of ceramic elements that could be produced in the Devesas factory. The façade design has been attributed to José Joaquim Teixeira Lopes (1837-1918), sculptor, dedicated mainly to ceramics, and the co-founder of the factory. Teixeira Lopes was, on the one hand, inspired by the Moroccan architecture and on the other, by classical mythology: that can be seen at the other façade, towards the Conceição street. Even if not very consistent in terms of architectural styles, the building does show the whole range of available approaches to ceramics production (I admit, it didn’t occur to me until the guided visit that those façades were part of the same building).

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I was enchanted to see the inner courtyard, hidden from the eyes of passers-by and isolated from the street noise: another characteristic of traditional Moroccan residential architecture, now belonging to an exclusive restaurant whose spaces unfold behind the iron gate painted in an unlucky combination of red and silver.

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And the two interiors towards the José Falcão street, belonging to the Comme Ça restaurant and an abandoned moto – disco – bar, are both creative and inspiring in their own, particular way. So representative of diversities and differences coexisting happily in Porto!