There is an unexplored world in Porto: the so-called secret gardens inside its blocks. Obscure mark of the city, such urban voids are even more surprising given the location of several of them in the central area, mainly in the neighborhoods of Santo Ildefonso and Cedofeita. In other words, Porto has hidden and ignored spaces right in the heart of the historic center and in blocks that have cultural and environmental values that are totally unknown to Porto residents. And such values must also be part of the artistic and immaterial memory of the city through an infiltrating pedestrian network.

It is necessary to register this known ephemeral condition: with the requalification of the Center taking place at a galloping pace in the last decade, sooner or later these voids will be the object of a utilitarian vision (possibly) that disrespects the memory of these block interiors. In partnership with Anarchlab architects, Vazio S/A proposed two approaches to these gardens that reflect the firm’s previous work and research:

Abandonment Landscaping: an approach that explores the entropic condition of court interiors. Instead of trying to sew together the diverse interests of each of the owners of the properties in use, an inverse strategy: mapping the lots without any activity. As a way of recording this abandonment, the lots will have their plant species cataloged and organized. This approach is complemented by the realization of an ephemeral landscaping that uses not the ornamental species from the secret gardens, but the same weeds present in abandoned gardens, or a ruderal landscaping.

Unknown Occupations. These voids may actually be inhabited: by weeds, grasses, insects and mammals, and who knows by horticulturists, homeless people and other uncharted agents of the city. And in fact they are: we had the opportunity to meet a man who planted a kind of “informal network of vegetable gardens” in several lots within a block on Rua do Almada. António Silva (name changed, for protection) is the Pirata Rural (real nickname, for pride). For many years he has occupied parts of different empty lots inside the block of the Academic School, which is accessed by passing through the perimeter and then through open spaces between ruined walls, with agricultural activities that he irrigates with well water from one of the lots. António builds his network from batch to batch, as the city was built. The relevance of its secret gardens and vegetable gardens is such that, when one of these spaces was recently discovered on a plot undergoing rehabilitation by Anarchlab, the Pirata Rural was asked by the new owner, an Australian ex-hippie, to stay on as a landscape architect.

Secret gardens like this one are just one of the events likely to be discovered throughout the work and prove that there is certainly a real universe of stories and fascinating spaces in those places. The registration of uses and counter-uses, gardens and weeds, events and stories is the subject of this research.

Proposal presented by Vazio S/A and Anarchlab for the Criatório 2018 Arts Support Program, sponsored by Porto City Hall.