NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS AWARDS : existing completed examples
ARMAZÉM COWORK PORTO
Full project title
A reuse bottom-up collective project for a new community in Porto
We imagined a place where we could work, meet and share with others; ideally it would become a strong community with common interests and facilities, open to the neighbourhood; we wanted to reuse one of the many abandoned ground floor spaces existing in Porto and have an active role in the quality of the public space around us; we even dreamt of a garden where to plant our own food. Armazém Cowork is a simple project where a group of people engaged in a silent yet powerful revolution...
Where was your project implemented in the EU?
Rua Antonio José da Silva 63
When was your project implemented?
Has your project benefited from EU programmes or funds?
Which programme(s) or fund(s)? Provide the name of the programme(s)/fund(s), the strand/action line as relevant and the year.
II. DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT
Please provide a summary of your project
It all started when we finally found an abandoned warehouse in a building from the 60s. It was the perfect blank canvas for the coworking hub we wanted to build. We called it “Armazém”, the Portuguese for 'warehouse'. The old warehouse was located in a residential neighbourhood with local services and small scale commercial activities. Despite its central location, the wave of profound transformation that took place in Porto during the past decade had not quite gotten there yet. At that time Laura, Nuno, João and Diogo, reuniting after several years working abroad, were about to found "Oitoo" a collective of architects. Their project to reestablish social relationships and the profound belief in their job as urban players, led to the design of what would become not only their studio, but a space open for artists, designers, holistic practitioners: a whole multifaceted community. Armazém Cowork is a private initiative which started with giving new life to an abandoned warehouse, and is now a hub where professionals from different paths of life, different countries and skills come together and use the working space at affordable rates, with the added value of cultural and professional, personal exchanges with a large range of opportunities, people and realities. It's an open space with flexible layout, balanced by a characterization of a number of areas according to their different acoustic requirements, space configuration, and privacy needs. The key point was the creation of a community while regenerating an abandoned space. The urban re-activation generated value just as much as it was able to develop and engage a new community, which in turn keeps regenerating itself through new interactions and collaborations. Apart from its daily users, the space is open to a larger community of people and has been the stage for a number of cultural and social events, such as concerts, conferences and movies, actively providing a spark of regeneration of the neighbourhood.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of sustainability and how these have been met
Our project is based on a notion of reuse, reduction and rethinking of both physical and immaterial conditions. The existing abandoned space and its contents were reused and brought back to life after almost 40 years in a “coma”. Consumption of land and materials was therefore reduced. The project generated energy by reusing a scrap space and led to the establishment of a circular economy, which is the basis of a new sustainable way of living and conceiving cities. In terms of project, passive cooling has been pursued all over the design process: the Atlantic wind blowing constantly from north, was turned into a passive ventilation system since the two parallel glazed façades were conceived with window elements set in two different alignments; the resulting connecting orthogonal elements were the opportunity to introduce a number of timber ventilation flaps, that ensure the renewing of the inner air quality, while avoiding the undesirable effects of direct strong wind. Also the warmth of Sun’s rays from South were seen as the more obvious resource to contribute to heating the space during the cold months of winter and spring, whereas in Summer the large glazed windows are protected both by awnings and interior glare control screens. The energy consumption is kept low and the sensible use of these passive systems enhances understanding and compromise among coworkers. In the backyard, the existing peach and fig tree are again being naturally watered by the well that is right in the center of what is now an ample, quiet and relaxing garden that the coworkers appreciate both for work time, eating lunch in sun, and attending the outdoor events revolving around art and food. Materials and expertise for the construction process are 100% local. Most coworkers cycle or walk to the Armazém, avoiding the use of cars in their daily flow: a small contribution to a more sustainable and livable city.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these have been met
The aesthetic objectives of our project rested on the fact that a lot was already there and could be strengthened, unveiled and polished. This applies to the visual permeability between the street side and the back garden, the opportunity of conceiving an “open space” typology enhancing a sense of collectiveness, or even the potential of defining a threshold space to mediate and enhance the exchange between inside and outside, between community and public realm. This clear goal allowed our aesthetic vision to always have a foundation to rest upon. Upon aesthetics rest our senses and emotions: our strategy for material choice was direct and straightforward, aimed at exposing and enhancing their inherent qualities. A cheap local pinewood parquet floor became precious when laid down to cover the whole 400 sqm, erasing the memory of the cold warehouse. The need for a hanging ceiling to thermally insulate from the 1st story outside terraces was the opportunity to use Portuguese cork panels painted white, keeping their texture and aroma. The existing perimetral walls were left as found and the need for new partitions offered the opportunity to think of ways to respond to acoustics, flexibility and identity needs. The final decision was to use green fabric curtains running on upper rails, which allow transforming the space in endless configurations. Green was the color of the existing gates, and was also used in some furniture elements such as the Oitoo design phone boots and tables. The wooden floor is echoed in the window frames, the meeting rooms tables, doors, and shelves. The reduction of vocabulary to the minimum and its consistent metamorphosis contribute to the strong visual characterization of the space. Plants are also used as element of strong aesthetic identity, giving a sense of peace conducive to calm focus for the coworkers.
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of inclusion and how these have been met
Inclusion is defined as the state of being made part of something, when multiple people are all invited to be a part of a group. Inclusive design is about making places that everyone can use.
At Armazém Cowork we receive on a regular basis, people from different parts of the world or people who, like us, have decided to return to Portugal after several years living abroad.
After the pandemic we are experiencing a new wave of people that find themselves in a moment of restarting and reinventing their professional life, and Armazém has provided a new home for this new challenging phase. A heterogeneous multi-national and multi-cultural group of people, engaged in different areas of activities and interests is crucial for a healthy daily coexistence. But creating a diverse community also means helping startups and young creatives with limited economic resources: in 2020 Armazém launched a program consisting on artistic residencies where grantees have a free working space in exchange for an art piece, installation or production of their own, donated to Armazém at the end of their stay: the space becomes thus a display of artistic production sponsoring young talents. To be inclusive also means changing and adjusting the concept to new relevant suggestions or requests coming from the users: the vegetable patch in the garden has been designed with the help and ideas from the whole community, phone boots have been set up to respond to the growing needs of remote sessions, the range of subscription plans are to include from a single day to over a year. These are just a few examples of how we strive to practice a flexible and inclusive approach. The disruption of the traditional private connotation of an office space gave rise to an open Armazém Cowork: open towards new members, open to those that used to work here and come back for community lunches, edible garden activities or events, open towards an intensive exchange with a friendly, characteristic and unique neighbour
Please give information on the results/impacts achieved by your project in relation to the category you apply for
Until 2017 anyone walking along the sidewalk of rua António José da Silva n° 63 would see two long rusty metal gates, hiding dust, emptiness and carelessness behind them. And so it was for over 4 decades!
The small “surgical” change of replacing the opaque corrugated metal sheets with an open metallic mesh, ensured the reciprocal visual relations inside/outside, giving a moment of peace and beauty to anyone walking along the street. It is now possible to catch a glimpse of a slice of our back garden, with the fig tree in all of its magnificence! The ample covered area between the entrance and the street serves as in-between space and has given the narrow sidewalk an opportunity for interaction.
Armazém is now a reference in the city both for its’ activity model and for the positive impact on this quiet neighbourhood.
Among other events, Armazém has organized “7x7”: from May till December 2019, 7 curators with different perspectives on society were asked to come up with a theme and invite people to talk or exhibit. A number of sessions took place, held indoors and outdoors, hosting artists, musicians, artisans, designers who had the opportunity to present their work, sell their products and build their own relationships. 7 months and 7 curators after, Armazém became the workspace for many of those involved in the 7x7 sessions, as curators, invitees or attendants.
Throughout 2019 cinema sessions were organized on Sundays afternoons: the goal was to call children from all ages to the space, and to offer author movies as well as locally produced snacks. Cinema was finally returning to town, after moving 30 years ago, almost exclusively, to the many shopping malls spread around Porto and its outskirts.
These initiatives stimulated connections between people, which then led to the creation of new professional relationships, such as iolo, a social project that aims to teach unemployed people the fast disappearing traditional craftsmanship of "Arraiolos".
Please explain the way citizens benefiting from or affected by the project and civil society have been involved in the project and what has been the impact of this involvement on the project
Like many other European cities, Porto struggles everyday with the negative effects of carbon based mobility: air quality, noise, traffic congestion, and uncertain safety for children on the way to school, pedestrians and cyclists. While it becomes more and more clear that top to bottom bold measures are urgently needed, the bottom up way is how citizens, private actors and collectives can contribute to shifting the paradigm. A recent survey conducted by Armazém shows how more than 80% of its’ current and former coworkers use a bicycle or simply walk to reach Armazém, and only 17% take more than 15 minutes to get there. Our workspace, is actively boosting the “15-Minute City” revolution within the Paranhos residential area, our community members report saving commuting time which they can use to equally focus on their work, their well-being or their children, family, and friends.
But the impact of Armazém goes way beyond making room for more life in the life of our community and less fumes for our neighbourhood. Daily intermingling around a cup of coffee, caring for tender seedlings, cooking a dish to be shared leads to new relationships and collaborations that give rise to new ideas and synergies which would have never seen the light of day in an isolated working model. The space acts as an icebreaker, a stage where people interact in a multiverse of moments that lead to projects such as Iolo, a social idea born inside Armazém which combines different skills, knowledge and ambitions, and affects a wider community through their production.
Our current focus is establishing the space as an opportunity in this part of the city, an open stage where anyone can present their ideas to the resident community in a fluid exchange which enriches all parties involved.
Please highlight the innovative character of the project
"We define social innovations as new ideas that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations, In other words, they are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society's capacity to act" (AA.VV., Open Book of social innovation).
There is nothing new in reusing abandoned buildings; nothing special in opening a coworking space either; yet by giving a new life to this space, we created a new added value in this particular urban context. The Paranhos area, where Armazém operates, is one of the poorest in town, and it is the only one being excluded from any sort of Public program aiming to encourage private investment on refurbishment or community and collective projects. Forgotten by the tourist tours, its residential characteristics have been at the core of the success of the project. When Armazém opened its doors it was seen as a rather exotic neighbour. Since then it became a catalyst, inverting the traditional city flows.
Armazém is a collective project, born from a specific and basic need: a place to work in where the need of privacy, efficiency and focus are met, but also where being part of a community grounds and makes relationships grow in a palpable support network of ideas.
We believe that the main innovative aspect is the injection of new life force in what was a vacuum, a ghost location, a life force coming from the founders and equally from the people who came together to share common principles of a more sustainable way of life.
Please explain how the project led to results or learnings which could be transferred to other interested parties
Armazém’s typological condition – an abandoned, underused ground-floor space – is not an isolated case. A wide survey ran by Oitoo discovered over 200 hundred spaces in a 36 ha area, as large as 1/50th of the city surface, with similar characteristics, pathologies and opportunities. At the same time, Porto has been suffering from aggressive real estate investment, which led to a steep sudden increase in housing prices and accentuated the lack of affordable housing for the local working class. While Municipality plans to build affordable estates within its boundaries, this problem drags on and doesn’t seem to be addressed efficiently. What if ground floor forgotten spaces could be the solution to affordable homes in our cities? What if 60’000 people could find permanent accommodation in refurbished ground floor spaces, contributing to densification, sustainable mobility and strengthening of community ties? In 2018 Armazém hosted a group of Interior design students from SUPSI in Switzerland, for a 5 day workshop which was the culmination of the study group research. The students had spent their semester working on the idea of how to reuse ground floor spaces in Porto and transform them into different types of lodgings, and the workshop was the opportunity to physically simulate their qualities. The pandemic worsened the economic conditions of the low and middle class, increased the amount of abandoned ground floors in town, and magnified real estate value; what if this perfect storm could be the opportunity for change? This vision requires a commitment of all parties involved in city planning and housing policies should endorse and simplify the processes for its implementation. Oitoo has just completed their first private conversion of such a space, the actual tangible demonstration of how reachable this vision really is. A project become reality, hopefully with the potential of shaking up the established mindset that struggles to imagine alternative scenarios.
Is an evaluation report or any relevant independent evaluation source available?
III. UPLOAD PICTURES
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that the proposed project has not been proposed for the Awards more than once under the same category and that it has not been subject to any type of investigation, which could lead to a financial correction because of irregularities or fraud.
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