Guimarães Meeting 2017
by Nelson Mota

Over the last decade, the historiography of Portuguese contemporary architecture has made an impressive effort to catch up with the fast development of critical essays on post war architectural discourse and design. There has been a particular interest in understanding the complex web of personal and intellectual relations that Portuguese architects established with international organisations. Recent scholarship has highlighted the importance of these relationships for the emergence of new paradigms in architectural design, theory and education in Portugal since the early 1950s.

A great deal of these relations were triggered by the post-war CIAM congresses, first, and the Team Ten meetings, afterwards. However, while the interest in this topic grew substantially, there are many blind spots that remain unaddressed. Not because of a lack of knowledge but mainly because the existing knowledge has not yet been critically discussed. To solve this, after investigating this theme in their doctoral studies, four researchers (Pedro Baía, Nuno Correia, Joaquim Moreno and Nelson Mota) decided to organise a venue in which this discussion could be held. They have invited more than twenty scholars, educators and critics of Portuguese contemporary architecture to identify a topic of their preference related with the critical revision of the Modern Movement in the Iberian Peninsula in the period 1953-1981.

The organisers asked the prospective contributors to prepare a small text, drafted as a typical session proposal for an international conference. This specific format was devised to suggest, from the start, topics that should target an audience located beyond the circuits of knowledge transfer in the Portuguese and Spanish speaking countries.

Twenty-three texts were submitted, exploring a wide array of different takes on the proposed theme. There were scholars interested in biographical investigations to figures such as Fernando Távora, Nuno Portas and Pancho Guedes, willing to problematize their role in the production and dissemination of a critical approach to the modernist dogma. New perspectives on the relation between modern architecture and (neo-)colonialism were also suggested, in tandem with several proposals concerned with the politics of architectural education, research, and communication. More insightful investigations to established fields of study such as urbanism and housing were also suggested. The relationship between tourism and territory, or housing and the vernacular tradition were singled out in the proposals received. Many proposals invited cross-overs of architecture with disciplines such as art, anthropology, or cinema.

The meeting in Guimarães was held in the auditorium of EAUM – Minho University School of Architecture, who generously sponsored the event. The meeting was open to the public, who showed in good number, contributing to a lively debate throughout the whole day.

The meeting was divided in four sessions (Habitat and Urbanism, Individuals and Collectives, Identity and Pedagogy, Image and Representation), each of each comprising four to six brief presentations by the scholars who were invited to submit the conference themes. The presentations were followed by a debate moderated by one of the members of the organising committee. To wrap-up the meeting, the organisers invited four Spanish scholars (Óscar Ares Álvarez, Carolina B. García Estévez, Tiago Lopes Dias, Guillermo López) for a round table discussion on the work produced during the sessions, and to establish the possible links with a follow-up meeting, to be held in Barcelona in June 2018.