Double conference features Portuguese architecture of the now

November 21, 2007

Rounding out the third in a series of multicultural conferences and exhibitions hosted by Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, "Portugal Now: Country Positions in Architecture and Urbanism" convened representatives of several up-and-coming architecture firms in addition to well-known architect Joao Luis Carrilho da Graça for discussions in Ithaca and New York City. The architects gathered to illuminate the challenges and possibilities of envisioning new constructs within variant landscapes and the context of global, political, and social climates. Approximately 55 percent of architects currently practicing in Portugal are under 35 years old, rendering the overcrowded and already competitive field that much edgier. In 2005, the Portuguese Architects’ Guild registered around 12,000 members and in 2007, almost 15,000. There are more than 25 schools offering architecture courses in a country where the population is around 10.6 million. "Over the last decade, many young architects, primarily in artistic disciplines, have migrated throughout Europe to study abroad, and have often returned with cross-cultural influences and a new agility to operate within Portugal," says the conference’s organizer Carla Leitão, visiting critic in the Department of Architecture and co-founder with Ed Keller of Aumstudio. "On the other hand, many established and prolific firms have experienced significant growth in international commissions and have systematically engaged internal transnational teams, while developing their own methodology." The conference’s first presenter, Camilo Rebelo, illustrated the importance of versatility and imagination, showcasing techniques used in works like Tree House on Antiparos Island, Greece and the Museum of Modern Art competition in Warsaw, Poland. His design for the museum combines permanence with transience to create a solid structure built in the likeness of an artificial bush, to be snow-covered in winter months and ivy-covered in warmer seasons. Rebelo is also currently building another museum and a major work in Portugal: the Archeology Museum of Foz Côa. MOOV Lab stresses moving away from conventional architecture to a sustainable and eco-friendly way of living. A project that involved placement of large constructed yellow arrows around cities in Portugal invited passers-by to partake in the performance of creation and invent uses for the arrows. Presenters also spoke of finding positive ways to use urban voids in city planning. One of its members is the current organizer of the Pecha Kuch Nights in Lisbon. EMBAIXADA Architects, a seven-person practice that shares authorship of all projects, mentioned the inherent struggles and rewards of such a large collaborative effort. They offered a glimpse of the future with a video about a project that allows a person to virtually build his own city, altering the scene layout as desired in an attempt to visualize how a city might develop in years to come. As coeditor of an architecture magazine, Pedro Bandeira made his mark on contemporary architecture not through construction but through publishing. Bandeira’s esteemed drawings reflect how architecture can be so easily influenced by the political currents of the time. The conference also included Diogo Burnay and Cristina Verrísimo, who have founded CVDB in Lisbon after collaborating with offices such as Zaha Hadid Architects in London and Manuel Vicente in Macau. Artist and architect Yehuda Safran moderated the Ithaca conference, while director of the Metropolis Program in Barcelona and curator of architecture for the Mies van der Rohe Foundation Xavier Costa oversaw the New York City portion. The "Portugal Now" exhibition located at Hartell Gallery in Sibley Hall was curated by Leitão with help from Brian Carli ‘08, and Patricia Brizzio, teaching associate in architecture.

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