There is in Porto an unexplored and expectant world: the so-called secret gardens inside its blocks. An obscure mark of the urban fabric of this city, such urban voids are even more surprising given the location of several of them right in the Center, especially in the historic neighborhoods of Santo Ildefonso and Cedofeita. That is, Porto has hidden and ignored spaces in regions where there is much urban infrastructure and in blocks that have cultural, environmental and architectural values totally unknown even by the portuesenses.
Raising, exploring and cataloging the current state of these inner backyards is a proposal that was presented by Vazio S/A to the City Hall in partnership with the Porto architects Pedro Barata de Castro and Pedro Silva (Anarchlab). The photos below were made during a concert by the Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva in one of these voids as part of the jazz festival Porta Jazz.
In 2017, the mayor of Paris convened the international competition Reinventer Paris, in which architects and developers were encouraged to propose solutions for infrastructures that are not very visible, such as spaces under overpasses, underutilized underground parking lots, reservoirs, and disused subway stations. The latent possibilities of these infrastructures will be revealed to propose a range of public equipments to be installed in the 34 urban voids that compose the contest.
It is a proposal in tune with the approach that Vazio S/A has been researching since 2001: urban activations that start from an existence, from a trouvé object that can have its condition leveraged through interventions that necessarily accept that condition.
Formed by consorcia of architectural firms and developers, the winning entries of Reinventer Paris will be announced shortly.
The images below are two examples of what can be done with urban voids. The first is a mosaic of photos of several overpasses along the East West Expressway in Belo Horizonte and was done during our research Under the Expressway, held many years ago in partnership with the Integration Office of PUC-MG and sponsored by the Ministry of Cities.
The second is a current photo of Viaduto das Artes, an amazing multidisciplinary cultural space located in Barreiro, also in Belo Horizonte. Installed under an overpass at Av. Olinto Meireles, it is a cultural center where the exhibition Recortes, which features engravings by artists Frans Krajcberg and Fayga Ostrower, among others, is on display.
The exhibition is on until 17 August. .
An exhibition with the 13 finalist works will open in September at the Tomie Ohtake Cultural Center in São Paulo. The other finalists are Bloco Architects, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, and Brasil Arquitetura, among others.
The online journal Vitruvius and the co-working platform Guaja have just published the article “Cities within the City”, where we review the last Shenzhen Hong Kong Architecture and Urbanism Bi-City Biennale, and our participation in the event with the proposal Nantou Playground. The English version was published by the website e-architect.
We are pleased to invite everyone to “Imaginary Cartography: The City and its Writings”, which began at Sesc Palladium (Belo Horizonte) last week, and of which we are participating after the generous invitation of curators Mauricio Meirelles and Marconi Drummond. The exhibition is a contemporary look at the urban and literary history of Belo Horizonte. Based on the idea of “literary maps”, Cartography …, in the statement of the two curators, “investigates the relations between concrete city and imaginary city, in a game of meanings that involves affirmations and absences, contaminations and refusals.”
And it goes on until July 8.
See also Sub-Arrudas, the project we are showing at Imaginary Cartographies.
Originally published in the book History of the Void in Belo Horizonte (Carlos M. Teixeira, Cosac Naify, 1999), the text below depicts a reverse urban sprawl, where everything one day demolished would be recovered and embodied by the same city with the same greed of yore.
Editor: Alexandre Campos
“If the history of Belo Horizonte were a film, it could be summed up as a transformation of the void of a young city to the full spaces of a saturated city. This project is an image of that film seen speeded up, but in reverse (like the image one has with the rewind button of a VCR): it is a retrogression in history which, paradoxically, points towards the better futures for the city. Let us recapitulate the whole history of BH in a few minutes, so that the absurdity of the elimination of its voids becomes clearer. If the “progress” of this city is identified with the slow occupation of its lots and parks, a retrogression means de-occupying full spaces and reinstalling empty spaces. To unsmother the city center, to condense and connect the outlying neighborhoods efficiently, to imagine projects as mad as the densification of Belo Horizonte. To return to the origins of the city. To imagine, one more time, the freedom and the strength of the void. Now, the urban zone will become a great Municipal Park, in a gesture of the “revenge of urbanism.” Like an enormous Central Park, which is at the same time a negation and a celebration of the city, the urban zone will come to be the nature we have at our disposal: the nature of things that have escaped the artificiality of architecture. The revenge: inverse metastasis of that which has characterized the growth of Belo Horizonte.
“A benign tumor. A stain of empty spaces contaminating the full ones. A retrogression: a return to the beginning of history as a way of perceiving a healthier future.”
We are very proud to present our proposal for the Shenzhen / Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale: a playground as opportunity to install a fresh public use into an empty building in Nantou, an urban village in Shenzhen, China.
Like trying to mix water and oil, the challenge of the project lies in keeping something of the roughness and wild textures of an abandoned concrete frame with the magical and festive atmosphere of a playground. Besides proposing a public use in the private realm, its new slides will let Nantou’s children play right in the center of their neighbourhood — a hyper dense, compact informal settlement that lacks play areas.
With special acknowlegments to Meng Yan, Liu Xiaodu and Hou Hanru, curators of the Biennale.
We’ve just exhumed some photos of the exhibition Em Directo (live), where we showcased the proposal Architectural Grafts and their embossed trunks. With curatorship by Paulo Miyada, the show circulated through some SESCs in Sao Paulo in 2011 and 2012.
The Rogelio Salmona Award catalog has just been published by the R. Salmona Foundation in Bogota and includes our H3o park – one of the 20 Latin American projects selected to participate. To apply, the building must have the potential to improve the city’s public space, be built more than five years ago and demonstrate that it has “avenged” – that has triggered lasting structural changes.
We are very proud to know of the Pierre Vago Prize of the International Committee of Architectural Critics awarded to the book “Architecture and Nature”, by Abilio Guerra, at an event held in South Korea. Along with “Risk Space” (Otavio Leonidio) and “Ode to the Void” (Carlos Teixeira / Vazio S/A), the book integrates the first three releases of the recently inaugurated Nhamerica Platform, in partnership with Romano Guerra Publishing.
The international awards jury was formed by president Joseph Rykwert (USA/UK) and members Manuel Cuadra (Germany), Sengul Oymen Gur (Turkey), Xiangning Li (China) and Louise Noelle (Mexico); and are part of the events of the UIA 2017 World Architects Congress, held in Seoul.
Ben Katchor, cartoon artist of the American magazine Metropolis, writes bizarre stories about design, architecture and behaviour. In the April 2009 edition, Marlon, a boy marked by childhood memories, grows up with a desire of owning a house with an absolutely impenetrable room. At 50, rich and psychotic, Marlon purchases an apartment with a salon that, despite of being furnished, would never be used…
The brief text below was originally written for “The Floor I Step On,” an inspiring Instagram page that became a bestselling book published by journalists Raíssa Pena and Paola Carvalho.
Carlos M Teixeira
“Old house floors remind me of a theater play staged on a vacant lot many, many years ago, in 2001. It was not really a lot: a house on Sergipe street, in Belo Horizonte, had been demolished a few days ago, and then a group of actors took advantage of this brief period, when the house became a lot, to present a night show amid the palimpsests of walls and floors of the demolished house.
Directed by actress and producer Andrea Caruso, it was a one-act play presented on a very ephemeral occasion: days later, the palimpsests would be destroyed by a backhoe that took the last memories of the house. And unfortunately, more days later, the inevitable hedges that surround all the construction sites would turn that space, which was public for a few days, into a private land like any other.
The set of the spectacle was this unusual square made up of remains of walls and claddings, zigzag floorings and hydraulic tiles, stairway treads stamped on the neighboring wall, trees and bushes clutched in an imaginary backyard. It was melancholic and dreamy, but it also pointed to a future discussion that only now can be perceived as a demand from all of those who live in the capitals of Brazil: more and better public spaces, the claims for the conversion of private lots into squares, and a more balanced negotiation between the public and the private spheres in the country.
This ‘Palimpsest Square’ would certainly be better for the city than the big building that today stands on Sergipe street, just as it would also be better than the house that was demolished.”
The playground objects we proposed for a kindergarten that houses more than 1,000 children in Ribeirão das Neves (MG, Brazil) have their imagined forms as the translation of the movements and games they sponsor: ramps, nets, ladders and climbs here are a departure point to imagine other ways to slip, climb, hide, swing, descend, go up. They are also an economically viable alternative to traditional toys and are intended to be more durable and more thought-provoking than the products on the market.
In view of the enormous amount of children in the school, the project bets on a language of large pieces of colored concrete. Robust enough to withstand the intense use to which they will be subjected, they are at once playful and functional, poetic and rational, sculptural and constructive. An infrastructural playground.
Among all the cities in the world, Shenzhen (China) probably has been the fastest growing in the last thirty years: neighboring Hong Kong in the Pearl River Delta, what was a village of 30,000 in 1980 is now a conurbation of 17 million inhabitants. In this overwhelming process of urbanization, little of its history has been spared, and that is why the urban village of Nantou was elected as the main site of the next UABB, or Bi-City Biennale of Shenzhen / Hong Kong. Curated by art critic Hou Hanrou and architects Meng Yan and Liu Xiaodu, this year the event has the title of “Cities, Grow in Difference”.
Nantou is an organic enclave with hundreds of 10 or 15-story illegal buildings. From an invitation from the curators, Vazio S/A proposed an intervention in this neighborhood, or more precisely a playground in an abandoned building right in the center of the village (see red square in the photo below).