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Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa

Volunteering is our foundation

Get to know our family

After the summer, we start receiving messages to know when the next Open House will be. Some people want to schedule vacation days so they can be present in another edition. Some people leave their name in advance with the reminder to come back, making sure they’ll be part of it. When we put the form online, volunteer applications begin to arrive. They come from Lisbon and also from surrounding areas, the other side of the river and even from other cities. There’s an innate magic that attracts people who come here, who call their parents, cousins and colleagues, gathering friendships. And it brings new faces to the itinerary or the specialists who already have a captive place. Every year since 2012, the Open House Lisbon receives hundreds of applications for the volunteer programme and the truth is that, without these people, this event could not happen. They are our foundation, our pillar and our high ceiling. They are the temporary structure that makes it possible for so many spaces to be punctuated with orange and delimited by arms that point the place, organize the queues, give useful information and tell the story of a place, that contextualize the story of the architectural project. They are specialists, curious young people, a new generation and experienced authors. They are talented people who can explore narratives, guide groups of visitors and revisit unique houses and spaces during a weekend with doors open to works and projects of excellence. Every year, Lisbon Triennale launches a call to form a team and find out who will be the face of the event, with different tasks, ranging from coordinating spaces in specific geographical areas, tutoring to support the training of teams who are in the field and guides to carry out visits or manage the logistics operations on site.

This annual event, which usually takes place in May, is part of the Open House Worldwide network which has been growing since 2010, the year of its creation. It is a free initiative that launches a programme of guided tours to private houses, to monuments with original routes whose access is conditioned, to projects still under construction or to large infrastructure or artists’ workshops to give some examples . But before that, long before that, there is a team that prepares it and gets together so that everything happens top-notch! Each person who volunteers is interviewed and each is assigned one or more spaces in a period of 4 hours/day. In the weeks prior to the Open House, pre-visits are made so that the knowledge of the project is absorbed. There are arms in the air, there are questions and there are notes, sketches and records. In this set of procedures as necessary as relevant, more than 200 volunteers constitute themselves as guardians, and as storytellers of the space(s). They receive a careful training, a crucial aspect of this operation which includes the delivery of a manual, detailed information about the space, training class in a large auditorium with contextualization by the curators and event’s coordination. And they give their time, dedication, interest and the Triennale gives them back all this dedication with exclusive tours and a private event to celebrate the weekend in a festive, informal and relaxed way, gathering emotions and celebrating reunions. It also gives them back this pleasure of presence with pride to know that over the years they have been building a family that reunites not only in this event but also outside of it, a group of people that chooses our institution as home for a couple of hours of this unique and ephemeral architectural journey. Because it is a grateful exchange, those who has joined has also been coming back to this experience. And there are those who have arrived and conquered new professional opportunities. And, common to all people, the creation of ties and new friendships, whose contact extends to other contexts. Volunteering is unique within the Triennale’s programming, being the only situation to which this format, which also covers both owners and authors, is justified by the fact that it is very focused on time.

It is only for a few hours that we cross paths with this family, in May. But we know that it is a family that exists all year round.

“I loved the experience of volunteering at the Open House Lisbon. Apart from having the opportunity to get to know spaces that are not always accessible to the public, we can see the presentations of the specialists, which make people aware of all our cultural and architectural heritages. It was fantastic… amazing!” — Sandra Samina

“It was a fantastic experience and it seemed to me that it all went very well. I also wanted to thank you for the opportunity, because I was received in the best way in a house that was not mine, I met many interesting people, I shared knowledge and exchanged impressions with many visitors and other volunteers, because without them the experience would not have been so motivating and enriching. These are moments that remind me of what I like to do and give me motivation to continue participating in these “little crazy things” in the middle of everything there is already to do. I’ll be available for future adventures.” — Inês Belo

“It was my  fourth time as a volunteered at the Open House, and it’s always a pleasure. Your positive energy is exacerbating and your willingness to do more and better is inspiring. I hope to continue collaborating in the event whenever possible. I can only congratulate on your success and hope you’ll always do a great job.” — Daniela Silva

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