City and Territory, as collective constructions, are the primary arena of conflict, understood as the action of opposing forces translated as dissension. This condition, implicit to a pluralistic democratic space, shapes architectural production.
In Conflict responds directly to the question How will we live together? – posed by Hashim Sarkis, curator of the Biennale Architettura 2021 – by learning from processes that question the issue of dwelling in its physical and social dimensions, and where conflict plays a crucial role. Public resilience and reflection transform these processes, which are still stirring, into valuable learning moments, to better understand architecture's transformative and political power.
Recalling the portrait drawn of Portugal in the film Non, ou a Vã Glória de Mandar by Manoel de Oliveira, In Conflict proposes a vision built upon a series of struggles that have yet to be overcome.
The exhibition, originally set at Palazzo Giustinian Lolin in Venice, is now open to public at Sinel de Cordes Palace, in Lisbon. It provides a narrative of Portuguese architecture through democracy, based on seven processes affected by material destruction, social relocation and popular participation. All of these were the subjects of broad media coverage, their struggles amplified by the press – taken here as a barometer of action and public involvement.
These processes are testimonies of a democracy that began with an impoverished Portugal, facing deep housing failures, which were aggravated by the demographic urgency of decolonisation. Today, more than four decades of democracy later, this reality remains fragile, marked by the persistence of informal neighbourhoods, by urban growth based on speculation in urban centres and by the abandonment of the interior of the country.
These cases constitute milestones along the exhibition journey. Based on each one of them, other projects with affinities to the problematic, scale or modes of action are called up for discussion. By bringing together their clashes – which remain in the Portuguese collective memory – these processes build a broad and cross-cutting portrait of the first 45 years of Portuguese democracy viewed through its reflection in Portuguese architecture.
In Conflict seeks, through an exhibition and debates, to consider the role of architecture as an artistic, public, political, and ethically-bound discipline. Faced with the impossibility of solving all contingencies, it is urgent to consider how to create places where everyone has a seat at the table, to imagine how we will all project a common future.