Day 12

In the evening we watched the documentary film "Bye Bye Barcelona" by Eduardo Chibás, which was followed by a conversation with the architect Luís Tavares Pereira who took everybody for a guided visit to the Guest House "Un:Almada", 5 minutes walk from our house.

It was interesting to see parallels between Barcelona and Porto, and to imagine what the effect of tourism might turn into in a dystopian scenario. It definitely raised a lot of curiosity and debate about the current tourism policies and their potential consequences. More to follow this week on Wednesday and Thursday about this subject!

Day 12

Some tourists passed by at lunch time. Miryam Kim from Stonia who visited the house for the second time to enjoy what she called "living in beautiful harmony". The French Ernora and Hervé noticed that, as tourists, and as their time in Portugal, they "were glad to have heard about this urban debate and social issues".

Day 11

Family dinner and then sleeping. A week of heavy programming ahead of us!

Day 10

Today we finally had some rest at home. We spent the sunny afternoon finishing up the writing for "Homeland: News From Portugal" second edition.

Day 9

Many people visited our house during the day. Even though there wasn't any scheduled event we had various spontaneous guests to whom we showed around and explained the project.

Day 8

We watched the documentary “Es.Col.A da Fontinha”, which shows the occupation of a vacant school in Porto by an activist group for social and didactic activities that was embraced by the local community and evicted by the authorities. After the film, we discussed the theme of “occupation” with José Soeiro, a sociologist who was also a leftist candidate for the Mayor of Porto and Carlos Moreira, a designer and member of the association “Fora da Porta”.

The discussion was rich and lively, with the themes being approached from different perspectives. We noted the need for emergency housing centres in Porto or other models for temporary inhabitation that can offer dignity to residents. It was also mentioned that the city council must make its inventory of properties available to the public. There was a big debate about the value of conflict and about the paradoxical relationship between occupying and negotiating with authorities. If occupation serves to determine the terms of negotiation a priori, there is a moment of dialogue that should be aimed and honoured by both parties – occupants and authorities. The discussion then geared towards the possibility of manipulating legislation to encourage private landlords to lend their buildings to those in need of them, the potential incentives for landlords – such as the rehabilitation of the buildings but also the protection and increased value offered by occupation, and alternative current models such as bailment contracts. José Soeiro criticized the Country’s housing policy, which has transformed Portugal into a country of property owners, instead of tenants, and the social implications of such model. He proposed a system where the city council would provisionally take buildings from private owners, refurbish them and have them rented at low cost for enough time as to cover the refurbishment expenses, then return it to the owners. This model would benefit all parties – the city by offering more housing and the proprietor by refurbishing their property at no cost. We talked about international models such as Camelot, an international property management services provide with a growing network of offices in Europe (United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Ireland, France and Germany). Their live-in guardian scheme provides housing at symbolic rent in exchange for protection of the properties of their clients. Their website, which addresses property owners, reads: “Vacant property is an easy target for vandals, squatters and thieves who present a very real threat to your investment as well as holding up any plans you may have for the property. In response, Camelot offer the pro-active Live-in Guardian solution that vastly reduces these risks for a fraction of the cost of traditional security. While Guardians are in residence, the property is secured; reducing risk and eliminating any delay in response to crime and maintenance issues on site. Live-in Guardians are not tenants, they are residing in your vacant property as a security solution and therefore require just 3 weeks notice before your property can be handed back for its primary use. The service provides clients with the peace of mind that the property is safe, secure and retaining its value while vacant.”

Day 7

We watched the documentary “Detroit: The Bankruptcy of a Dream”, directed by Thierry Derouet. We overheard the following comments from our three guests: “from automobile industry to small scale farming. It’s the globalization”, “a space for claiming, demanding, which would not be possible in an organized and functional society. It’s a space of freedom”.

Day 6

Today we hosted the first open conversation at the house, having received more than 30 people at our living room. It lasted for more than three hours (we are still trying to figure out if that is a good thing or a bad thing) and the guests were Inês Moreira, Anselmo Canha and Jérémy Pajeanc. Inês started by deconstructing the theme of the conversation – derelict buildings – arguing that the former conditions that such buildings entailed before the financial crisis, are not operative any longer. According to her, moving away from the semantic of real estate (empty, vacant) might bring us closer to the issues at stake. She usually refers to empty buildings as “brown rooms” to reflect their historical baggage, their accumulation of histories. With Anselmo we discussed the process of transformation of a shopping mall – Stop - that was built in the 1980s in Porto and after being empty for a few years gradually gave room to music studios. Anselmo explained that at the moment there are over 100 bands at the mall, and they have recently formed an orchestra that helped them gain cultural significance before the city authorities. In face of a legal process with the city council, the bands formed a strong community wishing to remain at the shopping mall. Jérémy is a French artist living in Porto since 6 years. He manifested his surprise towards the lack of value attributed to the 19th century houses that lay empty in the centre of Porto in contrast to the demand for such typology in Paris. The conversation concluded that there are three main landlords in Porto: the city council, “Santa Casa da Misericórdia” (catholic church institution) and the banks. There was a consensus about the need to implement a lending policy in the city of Porto, where the city council would loan vacant buildings on a temporary basis for cultural activities and potentially housing. The solution, according to the architect Pedro Jordão who attended the discussion, must inevitably comprise a public policy for culture and social action.

Day 5

We invited Rita Breda and Jérémy Pajeanc to come and visit our place. They are working on a new exhibition for Espaco Mira in which we are taking part and Jérémy is going to make a new project based on our residence!

Day 5

Lunch with Gui Castro Felga, where she told us about her renowned Worst Tours.
Check here:
Also, here is her website with beautiful illustrations and political commentary:

And she also left a note:

Day 5

Sr João Carneiro Soares visited us in the morning. He knew the project since its inception and even called the phone booth in front of our house! We talked about the available offer for transitory inhabitants of the city - such as monthly schemes in hotels and the possibility of staying in hostels. All of these are costly and often mean lack of privacy or dignity. He told us that in the 60's many people lived in small scale informal hotels often for months and even years, in Porto. Another option was the famous "island", informal settlements built in the interior of housing blocks that were usually governed by an anonymous person - not the owner - and rented at very affordable prices. These usually had one toilet to be shared by all the residents of the "island".

Later in the day we had a visit from a Romanian immigrant who told us that he lives in a house where each room is shared by 5 people. Two beds are to be shared between the five, and each person pays 35€/month. He did not want us to take a picture of him.

Day 5

We had an early visit from Ms Maria da Assunção Pereira Monteiro, who worked in the bank ( Finibanco) as a cleaner between 2004 and 2011.  She said she was really happy that she had the possibility to enter the space again and also: "it is a shame that the space is empty, it should be inhabited, all of it".

Day 4

Today the architect Pedro Bandeira kindly offered to visit us and cook us lunch.  He made a simple delicious pasta and over lunch we talked about housing in Porto and in Brazil, about the Lagarteiro Estate and our residence. Bandeira argued that the owners of empty buildings should be made aware and responsible for the lack of housing that affects many in the country.  He noted the fact that this project is taking place in a former bank, in a context where banks are not taking responsibility – and they should – for the current economic and social crisis as well as the amount of vacant buildings in the City Centre. He told us about Jose Antonio Pinto aka Chalana, a hands-on social worker who is also a great man and recently did a Tedtalk in Porto. We watched the talk together on youtube after coffee. Good hint for a possible new guest.

Day 3
The blog

Today we decided to start a blog in order to archive the activities, discussions and events that happen during our residence.