A conversation with Arch. Tiago Saraiva and Arch. Andreia Salavessa


A conversation with Arch. Tiago Saraiva and Arch. Andreia Salavessa

‘There is architectural work to do in the country and people need it, what doesn’t exist is money. We identify the problems and apply to resolve them.’

How was ateliermob born and what’s its current concept?

Arch Tiago – Ateliermob was founded by us and two other colleagues, Nuno and Raquel, who later had to leave. Andreia and I took control and the company grew gradually until we reached the team of eight members that we have today. We started out by making tenders, but as they decreased a lot, starting in 2010 we’ve changed our philosophy and focused mainly on people who cannot afford to pay for our work, helping them to seek funding. We identify problems and apply to resolve them. We reversed the process and with that we found a way to get around the difficulties. And we had a lot of fun doing it!

Arch Andreia participated in the elaboration of a short animated film. How was this experience and what others have you developed?

Arch Andreia – I got a design graduation, in the meantime I have embarked on architecture and I hope to continue working in many other areas. Illustration and animation are fields that also fascinate me and, at the time, the challenge of making a small animated film arose and I accepted. I really liked it and I hope I won’t stop here. I have been developing work with children, in the atelier, which consists in making children critical about the city where they live, showing them that they have the right to demand more. We mainly want to create citizens. We do a series of activities and children surprise us, they are very interested, they keep thinking about the themes and give very correct answers. I had no idea that it was something that interested them so much. We recently held a weeklong workshop at CCB, to which we invited Eng. José Pedro Venâncio, for two days. We covered a series of concepts and realized that children have a very wild imagination and we want to give them tools so they don’t lose it.

And being an assistant in college, arch. Tiago, is a test to what?

Arch Tiago – It is something I love to do. Unfortunately, doors are closing, new generations are being swept away from education. Those who do not have academic training cannot teach. And this is serious because the relationship between the practice of the profession and the academic is important and at the moment the academy is moving completely away from the practical reality of the professions. And that is noticeable in the students. We give lectures at colleges and realize there is despair, a fear of the future and a feeling that the only solution is emigration. It’s devastating. Our speech is positive, we say that there is a place for us in Portugal and that our professional practice is necessary for people. There is architectural work to be done in the country and people need it, but there is no money to pay for it. What we have to do is find the work that needs to be done and look for solutions to do it.

It is in this sense that project “Working with the 99%” appears. Tell us about this initiative and others that you have developed.

Arch Tiago – In the PRODAC Norte neighborhood, in Chelas, there were 88 families that 40 years ago built their houses on municipal land and the right to own the buildings was never recognized. Those people are now 70 or 80 years old. What we did was help to license the houses. Another challenge is a community kitchen project in a neighborhood in Costa da Caparica. People don’t have water or electricity and they make bonfires at home. We are trying to find financing to improve the quality of life of those people. Our position is to understand what our art can serve them for. The blog has been an important piece in this approach, because it shows the day-to-day of the studio and gives an idea of ​​how we work. Through it we have had orders for private homes and we have done a lot of rehabilitation, curiously always with BETAR. They are our partner from the beginning. We created such a trust relationship that we can no longer work with anyone else. There is a bond for reasons of ease of relationship and empathy, we feel that we make a team, they are always available for all our follies. It is vital, it is that partner that we always count on.

Arch Andreia – Another partnership that we are developing is a collaboration with a social and artistic cooperative, called Largo Residências, in Intendente. The management asked us to do a project for the hostel rooms but they had no money to pay us. What we did was an exchange of services – at this moment we have a room at the hostel to accommodate people who come to do international internships. We are now starting the construction of a cafeteria in the building and, in Largo do Intendente, we tried to obtain the license for the terrace of an Indian restaurant, financing for the rehabilitation of buildings and we held workshops with the local kids to think about that space. We try to have a wide range of partnerships to solve various types of problems through our work.

Did we reach a stage where we have too much construction?

Arch Tiago: Yes. Architects, at this stage, have a fundamental role, which is to start a process of demolishing things that were poorly built. It is necessary to take a step back to be rational and sustainable. It makes sense to shrink the highways, return to the countryside, recover and reorganize the country. The problem of requalification is the banking system, that has had a detrimental effect on housing processes, due to loans. The bank is the biggest owner in the country and we have to be suspicious of decisions centered on banks because they have an objective that is their profit, not a social objective or the organization of the territory. If requalification depends only on bank financing, something is wrong. The reform has to be honest, and often does not even involve great values, it is only necessary to act, to have a maintenance logic and to pick up those close to us, such as the artisan. This is what stimulates the economy.

This interview is part of Revista Artes & Letras # 42, May 2013
Partially automatic translation from portuguese: some expressions may differ from their actual meaning.

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