Marquês de Abrantes’ Palace

The Marquês de Abrantes Palace, wedged between two railway lines, on Rua de Marvila, is a public building that served since the XX Century as popular housing and, nowadays, serves as headquarters of one of the city's oldest collectivities - Musical Society 3 d'Agosto de 1885.

It has been in an expectant territory for several years: while it has the so-called social neighbourhoods to the North, to the South it finds the river and its speculative and gentrifying real estate projects. The project is linked to this dual reality, trying to ensure that through a process of collective questioning and decision-making, we can go against the logic of eviction of the working class allowing, on the contrary, their fixation.

The project proposes that through the installation of a local technical office of architecture, new uses can be designed in order to make culture, recreation and housing compatible. We believe that an architectural project of this nature begins with a blank sheet of paper, where the drawing appears through the participation of local actors – residents, collectivities, partner institutions. Being a public building, municipal property, the project has counted on public financing, especially through the BIP/ZIP program.

In 2017, we started using one wing of the Palace to show the potential and ambition of establishing a “local technical office of architecture”. We inaugurated this space, opened it up for the public, showing in-situ the work of 5 artists who engaged with the Palace’s surrounding territory and memory. For 1 month, meetings were held allowing us to start designing its future use, always as public property.

After the closing of the exhibition/local office in 2017 and 2020 the building was empty again. After a long battle we returned, in 2020, despite the pandemic, to open the local technical office following some of the same assumptions of 2017 – questioning and deciding collectively its future role in the city by congregating its cultural character with, again, housing. With the question: how to think the city from a building?

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Since this was a temporary intervention, the goal was to ensure that the existing structure was not damaged, not putting at risk the archaeological study of its past. The demolitions only affected constructions with no architectural value, or those that did not present security conditions. The new intervention makes a clear distinction – through the use of reversible technical solutions and contrasting materials – between the existing structures and our new (temporal) intervention.

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