LISBON | Interviews | Luís Santiago Baptista
We meet Luís Santiago Baptista beside the statue of King John I in Praça da Figueira, the hub for outdoor Triennale activities during opening week. In less than an hour, a group will gather for the start of Radical Pedagogies, an Associated Project by the Princeton University School of Architecture. Luís is the editor of Arqa magazine, as well as a prolific curator, writer and promoter of Portuguese architecture who seems to have been involved to some capacity with every architect we've interviewed so far. He was also one of the curators of the 2010 Lisbon Architecture Triennale.
On the theme of ‘Close, Closer’, this year’s Triennale, which “presents architecture not just as an object and idea to be mediated, but as the act of mediation itself”: As we are meeting before the start of a Close, Closer event, our conversation with Luís grows naturally from the subject of the Triennale. Luís believes that this year’s theme is a very relevant topic given the current climate, but that its emphasis on a singular perspective has not been as well received by an older generation of architects.
Where previous exhibitions – including Portugal’s representation at the Venice Biennale in 2010 – showcased the country’s built work, this Triennale highlights that there are no buildings to be done, demarcating a shift that has occurred between the established firms that came before and the emerging firms that have arrived after the boom.
On the transition from large commissions to community-oriented initiatives: While the large commissions that typified the boom period may no longer be available, there is funding when architectural projects will have a clear and targeted impact on their community. Luís referenced the BIP#ZIP / PIN#PIZ grant (Lisbon Priority Intervention Neighbourhood / Priority Intervention Zone), a municipal program created in 2010 to support three types of projects:
social support interventions, promoting citizenship and local jobs
environmental interventions, enhancing public areas
integrated interventions of regeneration and public use of empty municipal dwellings
With 1,000,000 Euros spread among 33 selected applicants, BIP#ZIP funds provide targeted resources where they are needed most. This grant has been successfully obtained by young architectural practices like ateliermob (curators of “Working with the 99%, winner of the Future Cities Prize at the 2012 Venice Biennale in Architecture) to implement projects in their neighbourhoods. The BIP#ZIP program is described in greater detail in this report. The Triennale instigated its own community-based grant program this year with an initiative called Crisis Busters.
Although our time with Luís was short, we took away a clear picture of someone who has a very strong perspective on contemporary Portuguese architecture, and an opinion that is respected and sought out by his peers. We see Luís as providing an incredibly hopeful voice for Portugal that will continue to reach a large audience through Arqa magazine, showcasing both the country’s beautiful built work as well as the work of a new generation that is exploring other avenues of practice.