Locations: Museu Colecção Berardo, Fundação EDP - Museu da Electricidade, MNAC – Museu do Chiado, Centro Cultural de Cascais
Let’s Talk About Houses, the second Triennale curated by Delfim Sardo, took place between 14 September 2010 and 16 January 2011. The theme is a verse from a poem by the Portuguese poet Herberto Helder and the underlying idea was to debate the question of housing, both literally and in a broader sense of housing in the world, including its sociological and cultural aspects.
With a programme that included 4 exhibitions, 1 international conference and 4 competitions, Let’s Talk About Houses involved 154 357 visitors and participants. This was also the year in which Triennale launched two initiatives: the Education Service, seeking to reach out into new audiences and the Associated Projects, an open invitation to the creative community to showcase independent projects as part of the Triennale. One of the programme highlights was the closing event, a lecture by Jacques Herzog of Herzog & De Meuron.
The Triennale starts with the house as the representation of dwelling in the knowledge that a house always exceeds the intentions of the architect, who created it, because a house is the representation of an existence, be it long or fatuous, brief or as boundless as the houses of Kavafis.
A house, whenever it is a house, is the representation of an idea of belonging; it is an exudation of those who live in it, changing, transforming, modifying, and subverting the plan.
Thus, to talk about houses is to talk about the permanent conflict between their design and the daily lives of those who rewrite it as an occupied space. In this sense, the vocative borrowed from Herbert Helder is taken as an indispensable condition of architecture, because architecture, at every moment, operates like an investment in the tragedy of its failure, at times for the purposes of its glory, that is, its appropriation.
In the context of the 2010 Triennale, the exhibition Let’s Talk About Houses: Between North and South points to an interstitial zone, something that lies between. This was the starting point used to establish the blueprint.
For this attempt to weigh up contemporary dwelling from a point of view that could be constructed from Portugal; between the north and the south of the reference points of Portuguese architecture, between the poles of its plural topology or in the dichotomy of Portuguese am- bivalence. In this respect, the exhibition sprang from an invitation extended to a group of curators to approach different problems from specific geographical perspectives: Pedro Pacheco and Luís Santiago Baptista were asked to consider the Portuguese question; Manuel Graça Dias and Ana Vaz Milheiro were asked to reflect on issues of dwelling with regard to situations in Africa (clearly, those African countries which have a recent history of Portuguese colonialism) and Brazil; Peter Cook was asked to take a tour of northern European countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark) to discover the recent developments that have taken place in Nordic dwelling, with all the mystic charge that the endurance of the north possesses for us; and Diogo Seixas Lopes was asked to look at relations between Switzerland and Portugal, a project which he has wisely subverted. In programmatic terms, SAAL and The House of the Future were the starting points that the curators were given as the foundation on which they were asked to reflect.
Featured architects: a.s*; Aires Mateus; Álvaro Siza Vieira; Atelier Central; Eduardo Souto de Moura; João Mendes Ribeiro; Menos é Mais; Pedro Reis; Rui Mendes.
Featured architects: ALA Architects; Anttinen Oiva Architects; Dorte Mandrup; Helen & Hard; Jensen & Skodvin Architects, Mette Ramsgard Thomsen & Karin Bech (CITA), Snohetta AS, Tham & Videgård Architects.
Featured architects: Álvaro Siza Vieira; Eduardo Souto de Moura; Peter Märkli.
Featured architects: Delfim Amorim; Fernão Simões de Carvalho; Maria João Teles Grilo; José Forjaz; Pancho Guedes; Una Arquitectos.
Fundação EDP - Museu da Electricidade. Chief Curator, Delfim Sardo, and assistant curator, Rita Palma. The curators were Manuel Aires Mateus and João Luís Carrilho da Graça.
In the context of the 2010 Architecture Triennale, the competitions being presented in partnership with the EDP Foundation at the Museu da Electricidade are of central importance. In the first place, the typology of the competition represents a highly significant part of an architect’s activity: competitions are moments of great pressure but also of engagement with the contingencies of the real that are specific to architecture’s project culture. Secondly, both of the competitions that the Triennale decided to launch, within the differences in typology and scope that separate them, possess a common concern: they represent moments in which the architectural community is asked to think about real questions connected to the problems of living in specific places.
This way of understanding architecture’s potential to build better living conditions is resolved in a different way in each of the events that gave rise to this exhibition. Taken together, these two competitions shape an architectural approach to real space, people, and real cities. In a certain sense, they are the beginnings of journeys, of working paths that will develop if the energy that mobilizes them infects the countless partnerships that are involved.
Cova da Moura was chosen for a series of simple reasons: it is a neighborhood whose history is inseparably intertwined with the re- cent history of Portugal, with decolonization and the migratory movements from the Portuguese-speaking African countries, particularly cape Verde. It is an intense place. Although chaotic and socially complex at times, it possesses an urban structure that has made itself viable, with a population that has developed essential forms of association that have created a sense of community, as well as an identity and a notion of belonging.
However, under no circumstances was the case study to be taken as an example to be copied; precisely the opposite was intended: the students had to develop their projects on the basis of their involvement with the specificity of the situation in Cova da Moura. They had to try to understand the neighborhood’s complexity by examining it at close range, even if the solutions found were on the macro scale of the territory and not on the micro scale of the isolated intervention.
Throughout the year, the students developed their projects within the framework of the working methodology defined together with their lecturers. The Jury, which was composed of Inês Norton de Matos, Lieve Meersschaert (representing the Cova da Moura neighborhood committee), Augusto Mateus and Diogo Seixas Lopes met on 1 July, and was chaired by Manuel Aires Mateus, the curator of the exhibition. Of the 77 projects presented, 30 were selected which are displayed.
Arriving in Cova da Moura was a huge surprise. I had an image of Cova da Moura, which I had gleaned from information from various sources, and I thought I knew what it was like. When I actually arrived there my biggest surprise was discovering that the neighborhood was a kind of city itself, unlike the gigantic periphery around it. That impression of being in a consolidated city, due to the urban density, seemed to have transmitted itself to the people who live there. And this meant that my first impression of it came as something of a shock. (...)
In essence, when we were in Cova da Moura we felt that what is happening there is that a designated public space ends up becoming a space that is treasured. It is a place where people meet one another, and we felt that this makes it truly connected to things that are very real.
Seeing a neighbourhood that declares, ‘this was a choice’, serves as a great lesson. Here we see a neighbourhood that is proud of itself, a neighborhood that says, ‘We’re from Cova da Moura – we’re not from there, we’re from here!’
The most interesting thing about this competition has been recognizing that we do not know how to proceed. Let’s discover, share and discuss our findings, and give our utmost attention to what each of us will find in the responses.
Manuel Aires Mateus in Catalogue Let ́s talk about houses: Competitions
Basically, the idea of the competition was to create the conditions to normalize life there, by providing the basic infrastructure and support system needed for life to develop creatively.
The theme of the competition, this idea of having an exterior space, which puts us in contact with the sky, and a covered, closed space is a fantastic proposition in relation to the possibility of building houses in Luanda – which has an agreeable climate and where one can picture life being lived in just this way, between exterior and interior, and fairly intensely. What we wanted to do with this competition was to open up perspectives and possibilities. Rather than immediately leading to the building of thousands of houses, it was about creating the possibility of profound reflection which might help people to gain a better understanding of the issue of dwelling, and to attempt to find solutions to it. As a whole, I believe that all the reflections and projects presented in this competition basically lead to this possibility of opening up perspectives and clarifying what we are discussing, namely the possibility of constructing urgently needed houses for the inhabitants of an incredibly rich country with extremely diverse resources.
I hope that this competition helps to change or deepen the relationship between Portuguese architects and this kind of issues, not only in Africa but also on other continents. We are looking at one city that has a particular type of problem in a world that is littered with problems.
João Luís Carrilho da Graça in Catalogue Let ́s talk about houses: Competitions
In an environment up taken with the idea of “art in general”, there existed a growing belief in the idea of the crossover between art and architecture, in other words, in the almost generalized idea that there existed a continuum between the two fields. Indeed, in some situations it was almost impossible to make a clear distinction between them. In the field of architecture there perhaps existed a fascination with artistic creation, not only because of the enormous potential for freedom that architects recognized in artists but also because experimentation is more direct, personal and radical in art, in experiments which throw up a permanent crucible of references and problems.
However, a decisive fissure exists: architecture works on the reality of experiential space and art works on the mechanisms by which spatiality is represented. this difference, which at times is voluntarily forgotten by both parties, contains a notorious potential for error in many architecture exhibitions (in which architecture behaves with the objective reification of art transformed into mannerism), as it does in artistic practice when it is seduced by the notion of the project, now with-out an object.
This exhibition is about the architectural language that runs through contemporary art, independently of the various motivations surrounding it: either in the representation of architectural space, or in the use of an idea of architectural vernacularism, or in the fascination with the primacy of use and inhabitability. In any case, the connection that architecture brings to the real (or, to be more precise, to the representation of the real), which permeates artistic concerns, is the magnet that drives this permanent relationship. Therefore, without seeking to undertake an historical survey, the exhibition explores the mutual interest that exists between both fields. Its aim is clearly based on the idea that the quality of an artistic work that uses architectural processes can be conceptualized by using not architectural tools of analysis but artistic ones, which, however, does not prevent the reflux that they sometimes possess in the context of architecture from being discerned.
Temps d’Images Festival presented “Wall Piece” (2000) by Gary Hill as an associated event of the Lisbon Architecture Triennale.
Let’s Talk about Houses in Cascais is a curatorship project focused on domestic architectural production. The idea is to reveal the spatial, functional, and landscape mechanisms of a creation that is made to respond to private, everyday life. The fact that the geographical and social world is focusing on Cascais stimulates an approach that is articulated in accordance to sources as diverse as nostalgia and cosmopolitanism, public and private life, everyday life and experiences, construction and landscape, and experimentation and innovation. Cascais is understood to be a magical place driven by these values in the contemporary world.
To this end, seven case studies have been chosen which make it possible to put the theme in perspective as: 1) the house as a programme of spatial and constructive experimentation; 2) the house as a place in which the dream of happiness is projected; 3) the house as a promise of the “good life”; 4) the houses of Cascais on the contemporary architectural map.
We are starting from the principle that Cascais has an atmosphere that arises from its exceptional houses. For this reason, we are asking why it is that the plan of the single-family house is so fascinating for architects and why many of the best contemporary examples can be found in Cascais. The seven case studies make up a network that extends from the “Portuguese house” to modernism, from the classical spirit to radical modernity, and from organicity and intense complexities to depuration and suspension in the landscape.
Drawings, models, installations, and projections of images are the tools used in this exhibition, which is accompanied by a critical-reflexive book and highly sought-after visits to some of the places concerned.