October 29, 2009 - The Secretary of State for Culture of Portugal - Five Africas/Five Schools
October 29, 2009

Five Africas/Five Schools

Five Africas/Five Schools
31 October – 6 December 2009
Opening: October 31, 2009, 6 p.m.

Curator: Manuel Graça Dias

Ceccillo Matarazzo Pavilion
Parque Ibirapuera
São Paulo, Brazil


Participants and Projects: 

Inês Lobo
: A school for Cape Verde
Pedro Maurício Borges: A school for Guinea-Bissau
Pedro Reis: A school for São Tomé and Príncipe
Jorge Figueira: A school for Angola
Pedro Ravara+Nuno Vidigal: A school for Mozambique

The Portuguese presentation at BIA’09 was conceived as an opportunity to undertake a more propositive, more useful action, an opportunity to construct a situation with chances of continuity – which would not be exhausted in this show.

The focus was purposely turned to Africa and the five Portuguese-speaking countries which are historically and emotionally closer to us. The major shortfalls faced by these young nations as they struggle to build fairer and more democratic societies amid the huge imbalances caused by an irrational global economy are well known. The subject of education and respective constructions naturally seemed most compelling to us, where it would make the most sense to stimulate and promote. Five schools for Africa, exercises based on real foundations, less self-referenced and less umbilical; exercises almost at the limits of architecture’s possibilities: there, where living conditions would definitely not be formatted by European comfort and where there was an acute sense of social urgency, obliging a major and deliberate effort to invent something else. Scarcity and sustainability faced on their own territory and not as socio-decorative, academic or rhetorical propositions.

The projects Portugal brings to the Biennial are therefore the first phase of a more far-reaching action: that of having an appropriate architectural object built in each of these countries; adjusted to local scale, local conditions, local materials and technologies. Schools that are simple and easy to build, but not overly frugal or limiting architecture’s capabilities; schools that are durable, strong and easy to maintain, not hostage to sophisticated technologies and impossible future repair; schools that are appealing, symbolic and friendly, where the most customary local construction methods and materials can take on new expression, inspiring other inventive applications and unabashed pride and awareness regarding the traditions which time has disseminated in the different African regions.
Meanwhile, five architects had to be chosen. We focused on the generation born in the 1960s, looking for five professionals with solid and consistent track records and with a recognised ability to deal with the tougher sort of problems.

Architects set on continuing a practice which may in the end also characterise the very history of a disciplinary activity we could call Portuguese: the ability to mix, the inclination and desire to understand the Other, the boldness of heterodox proposition, the willingness to experiment before new scenarios.

They are five different Africas, the places − Achada Fazenda in Cape Verde, Cacheu in Guinea-Bissau, Santa Catarina in São Tomé and Príncipe, Benguela in Angola and Vila do Milénio (Nampula) in Mozambique − for which the five schools were designed. They also comprise five schools (educations, ways of seeing, manners, sensitivities) – five distinct possibilities that the five teams have conceived.

The works which Inês Lobo, Pedro Maurício Borges, Pedro Reis, Jorge Figueira and Pedro Ravara/Nuno Vidigal leave us here illustrate the generous hypothesis that for each place, each problem, the architects designed a unique response, using their sensitivity to isolate a specific critical possibility: what they deem best, fairer, more appropriate and more beautiful to place at the disposal of the specific and unique people who will inhabit same.

Manuel Graça Dias, Curator
Lisbon, 1953. Doctorate in Architecture from the Oporto University. Currently teaches in the Architecture Theory area at FAUP (since 1997) and in the Project area at Lisbon Autonomous University (since 1998), department he headed (2000- 2004). Began professional career in Macau. Author of various books of criticism or on architecture-related subjects.

Organization and Production:
Directorate-General for the Arts of the Portuguese Ministry of Culture, represented by Jorge Barreto Xavier, the Director-General for the Arts •
Av. da Liberdade, 144 – 2º, 1250-146 Lisbon • T: +351 211 507 010 • F:+351 211 507 261 • E: geral@dgartes.ptwww.dgartes.pt

Press Conference: October 30, 2009, 11 a.m. at the Hotel Tivoli São Paulo – Mofarrej.
Contact: Sandra Vieira Jürgens • Press Officer •+351 933 451 775 • sjurgens@dgartes.pt

Further information: 

Portuguese Official Representation at BIA'09

The Secretary of State for Culture of Portugal
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