The historical downtown of Lisboa under discussion

On the 21st of April, the Central Bank of Portugal, together with GECoRPA – A business organization dedicated to heritage, and ICOMOS – International Council on Monuments and Sites, held a full-day conference about the future of the Baixa Pombalina, the historical downtown of Lisboa, as a potential UNESCO world heritage site. The application process seems to be stuck in the meanders of political maneuvers and no one has the full picture as to what is actually going on. The conference’s mission was to put everything in evidence and in perspective to everyone involved directly or indirectly in this process. The contributions ranged from engineering and architectural specialists, showing studies and successful architecture designs, but also representatives from the political arena and historians and thinkers with some degree of knowledge about the matter at hand.

Lisboa, Baixa Pombalina, Baixa, downtown, earthquake, seismic construction, conference, history, historic building, building, urbanism, urban design, architecture

The core value of the Baixa Pombalina is that it was a landmark in the world’s urban design. It was a exemplary masterplan in the broader sense of the word, as it solved the housing problem for countless victims of the 1755 earthquake, managed to bring Lisboa’s center to the state-of-the-art cities club with a seismic-resistant prefab architecture design, established the terms for the city’s growth for centuries to come, and was planned with financial and political mechanisms that enabled it to be built and to endure for ages to come.

Lisboa, Baixa Pombalina, Baixa, downtown, earthquake, seismic construction, conference, history, historic building, building, urbanism, urban design, architecture, Museum of Money, Banco de Portugal

While the final goal – the application to take the Baixa Pombalina to the UNESCO council – remains fuzzy and distant, and in the hands of far too many variables (such as political shifts and economic winds of change), the gains to be had were a full grasp of the complexity of the matter to everyone present. A lot of students were there alongside professionals and bureaucrats, and it is possible that some of them might have something to say in the future on this matter.

There was still time for a quick tour to the future Museu do Dinheiro. Fitting for a building owned by the Central Bank of Portugal, except that the building is actually a former church in the heart of the Baixa Pombalina. Any conspiracy theorists out there?

 

Freedom Revolution Workshop with Marina Grechanik

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Largo do Carmo

This saturday, we had the privilege of having Marina Grechanik from Tel Aviv, in Lisboa, for a Freedom Revolution Workshop. The motto was to sketch the revolution by telling the story of its heroes: the people. We used her favored materials and techniques, and I was deep outside my comfort zone, except in the first warmup sketch.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Largo do Carmo, expressions

The first challenge was to capture emotions in people’s faces, with a quick gesture, with line or with a combination of wash and line. The sketches with less detail seem to be the most successful in conveying the basic emotions people were showing. Can you spot the instructor?

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Rossio, postures

We came down to Rossio train station, because of the rain, for the next challenge: to sketch action. To capture basic stances and gestures, body postures of people doing small actions, with line or with a color wash. Near the end of the challenge, I sat next to Paula Cabral, who was kind enough to let me use her ecoline-filled waterbrush – a very efficient tool! And works marvels in combination with the colored pencil and Paula’s wax crayons.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, lunch, lottery

During lunch, I sketched a panorama of our table, and to avoid further conflicts or complications, the portrayed ladies made a lottery to decide who would keep the sketch. Teresa, the winner, portrayed on the far right side of the sketch, was happy.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Terreiro do Paço

The afternoon challenge was longer in time. We took over the Terreiro do Paço, the administrative plaza of the capital, turned tourist attraction in the latest years, and more populated that day especially because it was one of the major sites of the actions that led to the ’74 revolution. The site is naturally charged with a political energy and, as Walter Rossa put it in a conference I attended recently, “it is meant to be inhospitable”. Will all the tourist and leisure life that exists here now soon come to an end? Wouldn’t we want it to come to an end?

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Terreiro do Paço

The challenge was divided into two parts. Number one: to sketch a story of a single place, using only a line tool, gathering information about the actions, the characters and the interactions that happen in that particular spot. Number two: same as number one, but with washes and colors.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Terreiro do Paço, music

The stories I captured in line weren’t so successful, so I hurried to get to do some more washes. My education in washes began in the Lisbon Urban Sketchers Symposium in 2011, in Cathy Gatland and Isabel Fiadeiro‘s Urban portraits. Now with Marina, this technique awoke from the ashes and, hopefully, is in me to stay.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, Terreiro do Paço, music

The musicians in the previous story were performing under the archways of the Terreiro, surrounded by some Banco de Partilha Social and around a couple hundreds of school kids going about their diverse kid’s businesses. Somewhere along the way, one of the girls borrowed a guitar and a high school band immediately and spontaneously formed and performed three songs with enough vigor and power to attract a small mob.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, skateboard, Terreiro do Paço

Some skaters improvised an obstacle from a sunshade support. Soon afterwards, the light drizzle had turned to a more proper rain. We took shelter under the archways, Marina wrapped up the workshop and we moved along the Baixa to drink some tea and some moscatel, to warm up our bodies and lift up our spirits.

Freedom Revolution Workshop, Marina Grechanik, workshop, Lisbon, Lisboa, sketching, Urban Sketchers, Urban Sketchers Portugal, 25 de abril, tea, moscatel, Baixa