A Call to Arms:
Lisbon’s Crisis Busters.

April 2, 2013 - 11 minutes read

For three months this fall, the third Lisbon Architecture Triennale will examine the potential of architectural output through critical and experimental exhibitions, events, performances and debates across Portugal’s capital. Crisis Busters is one part of the festival that explores the transformational power of architectural interventions.

Architecture as a means to positively influence social transformations is often overlooked. The media tend to take a close look at projects that are controversial or breaking their budget instead of showcasing a visionary future.


German Contribution to the 11th Architecture Biennale in Venice: Updating Germany.

However, there are quite a few projects that point to the positive forces of architecture– such as Germany’s contribution to the 2009 architecture Biennale Updating Germany or the transformation of New York’s High Line from industrial derelict to a pulsating public green space.

A Call to Arms.

The Lisbon Triennale chief curator Beatrice Galilee pointed out that the Crisis Buster grants “are a call to arms for talented people with ideas to make positive, public things change in a very difficult moment in Lisbon’s history.” I find it particularly interesting to encourage such creative solutions from within a country that is obviously under extreme stress due to the financial crisis– without the smack of federal or European rescue programs. Galilee and the Lisbon Architecture Triennale are aiming to foster transformational design practices as part of a public festival:

“During the Triennale, architecture will be portrayed as a living, social and artistic force, charting cultural, political, scientific and aesthetic territories. By largely excluding built-form of architectural practice and focusing on alternatives the Triennale is responding to a shifting economic and social climate in which traditional modes of architectural production are changing and where innovation is breeding fast.”

The selected projects show a wide range from practical DIY workshops, restaurant trails, publishing experiments, communal kitchens to the temporary use of architecture. Here are the descriptions of the ten winning projects as part of the Crisis Busters call. The Lisbon Architecture Triennale will take place  12. September – 15. December 2013.

1. Beautiful, Low Tech & Do-It-Yourself Solutions Terrapalha (PT)

An open laboratory set in a Lisbon public garden, this project will carry out practical workshops, discussions and presentations on natural building and alternative energy solutions. For three weeks, the lab will teach low budget, ecological, innovative, do– ‐it-‐yourself techniques, starting with the construction of a shelter structure that will house the lab itself. The idea is to teach solutions, improve skills, empower and inspire people in practical workshops that involve guests, friends and the local community.

2. South Entrance – Bairro Alto da Cova da Moura Associação Cultural O Moinho da Juventude (PT)

South Entrance functions as the starting point for the requalification of the different entrances of Cova da Moura, a run-down, low-income neighbourhood in Lisbon. A strategic point of access to facilities such as the sports pavilion, the local nursery and plots of cultivated land, this site is currently in a severe state of neglect. Working in close collaboration with the locals, the South Entrance project will rehabilitate the site and return it to the community as a functional public space for informal gettogethers or planned activities.

3. Genius Loci The Gargantua Collective (PT)

In Portugal, restaurants are social platforms in the life of cities and its inhabitants. Genius Loci will propose three “restaurant trails” in the vicinity of the Triennale’s main venues, using the event’s guidebook. Enjoying a meal at one of these traditional establishments will be recommended as a unique experience of Lisbon, one that is gastronomic as well as spatial and social. Unbeknownst to the visitors however, the recommended eateries are under risk of going out of business, due to the crisis. By inviting Triennale visitors to enjoy local eateries, the project allows them to inadvertently play a role in keeping them open for business, while raising awareness to their tangible and intangible heritage. 3/8

4. The Object that wanted to keep being itself normalearchitettura (IT)

A weeklong workshop where Lisbon artisans or craftsmen together with students learn a number of simple techniques to extend the life and use of everyday objects. At the end of the week, the shop(s) will inherit the content of the activity, becoming reference point for all those interested in acquiring the products or learning the techniques. As the crisis has forcibly brought about a change in consumer habits in Lisbon as well as other European cities, this initiative proposes to make objects last longer, without losing its original function or effectiveness.

5. Pátio Ambulante frame collective (PT)

Pátio Ambulante proposes the creation of a pátio-network in Lisbon, working as an exchange platform to stimulate interaction between patio dwellers and users, support local businesses and projects. The network will be connected by an old fire truck “408 pátio unit”, its ambassador and transport unit, which is fitted with an ice-cream store that ensure its economic self-sufficiency. The project will launch in a starter patio, where “408 pátio unit” will be stationed and a programme of activities will be carried out to promote the network: an exhibition on the pátio typology in Lisbon, a music installation with a live piano performance and a local swop market market.

6. A Cozinha da Casa do Vapor EXYZT Collective (FR)

Cozinha da Casa do Vapor proposes the construction of a sustainable, communal kitchen at a site developed by EXYZT Collective, as part of an overall strategy of improving quality of life, helping local businesses and propitiating social cohesion. The kitchen will be a site for shared meals but also cooking workshops, looking to drive social interaction through the rituals of preparing and consuming food as a group. In a bid to fight waste and aid local shops or producers, a system will be implemented for collecting surplus perishable goods (such as fish and produce).

7. O Espelho Newspaper “O ESPELHO” (PT)

O Espelho (The Mirror) consist in the publication of two issues of the wall newspaper O Espelho, cladding the walls of Lisbon during the Triennale with content free for all. Freedom of press leads to freedom of thought. O Espelho is a do-‐it- yourself tool 4/8 that creates a public space for ideas to circulate, igniting debate. With this “old school” format, it seeks to mirror and reflect upon events taking place presently. Content will focus on aspects related to the urban culture, its architecture and spaces. The issues will be published at the start and end of the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, at which time the project team proposes to host round tables in universities and other venues to further the discussion.

8. Agulha num Palheiro (Needle in a Haystack) Artéria (PT)

Agulha num Palheiro [Needle in a haystack] is a public platform where the many vacant houses and neglected buildings in Lisbon’s old quarters are collected and systematized. The goal is facilitate the process of identifying, renting or buying of these spaces by prospective dwellers. A visual depiction of this realm of possibilities will be presented in 3 short films, shot in 3 vacant houses from 3 historical periods. They will be released in sequence to spark discussion on the rehabilitation of Lisbon in social networks and media, contributing to build critical mass around the project.

9. Mundo Mouraria Baga Baga Studios

The project consists of a digital platform to communicate the social business model and community building project “Cozinha Popular da Mouraria” – a communal kitchen located in the multicultural neighbourhood of Mouraria. This platform will document and share the stories that radiate from cooking sessions and meals held at the kitchen, bringing the project to the attention of a vast global audience and putting Lisbon on the map of creative, civic-minded networks. The next step is to give local community members access to digital communication tools and their potential, thus empowering them through the ability to compose and share their own narratives.

10. Juventude na Street Inês Neto (PT)

The project “Juventude na Street – Youth on the street” aims to create a youth group for girls aged 10 to 17 years old, in the social housing neighbourhood of Horta Nova, a community where youngster are left alone for great parts of the day without adult supervision. The group would provide an alternative, positive occupation where members would participate in activities that stimulate cooperation, assertiveness, problem-solving and social skills. The project foresees the rehabilitation of a communal room in the neighbourhood, with the support of an architect but carried out by the girls, giving them a sense of achievement and responsibility.