Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Portuguese Architecture in the world - where to?

Ibêre Camargo Foundation, Porto Alegre, Brazil - Álvaro Siza Vieira

Portuguese Architecture has been following the economic panorama of the country. The economic recession brought an unprecedented crisis in the Real Estate sector, bringing down contractors, consultancy companies, construction materials suppliers, engineering offices and finally, architects. 

Several Architecture offices are now closing doors, leaving their former professionals without work. Newly graduated architects leave colleges without any perspectives in the national market. A whole sector is stagnated, and "there is no work" is the most heard sentence. The near future does not show better perspectives - the national market recovery is not on sight.

With almost nothing to build in Portugal, the reasonable option is to search for work beyond borders. From around the world are starting to rise some signals that send one message to the Portuguese architects: Portuguese Architecture is a brand that means quality, design and rigor. A recent news (published on Público newspaper) talks about the rising role of Portuguese Architecture in China. Nuno Lobo, working for several years in chinese offices, says that were always Siza Vieira and Souto de Moura's books on these offices' shelves. "There is a recognition of Portuguese Architecture, mainly after the Pritzker Prize assigned to Souto de Moura", says the Portuguese architect. This recognition happens at the time as China is making huge investments on Construction, making up one of the greatest opportunities for Portuguese architects. 

Saraiva & Associados is the only Portuguese Architecture office in Beijing. Its director, Nuno Batista, says that the Portuguese architect is associated with rigor and innovate ideas and designs. For this reason, there is rising number of Portuguese architects in this country, that faces a 7% economic annual growing.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese Government chose 2013 to be the "Year of Portuguese Architecture". With several divulgation initiatives, were elected the following target markets: Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Guinea-Bissau, Ireland, Morocco, Mozambique, United Kingdom and Serbia. 

The markets choice made by this initiative motivate several doubts about its pertinence. Some of these countries are facing an even worst economic crisis (when compared to Portugal) - Spain registers an unemployment rate of 26,6% and a large scale crisis in Construction sector. Other countries, like the United Kingdom, have their own architectural background, making it difficult to affirm the Portuguese Architecture in a context like this one.

It would seem more reasonable to bet on emergent markets: apart from China (and Brazil, that is on the initiative list), there are other markets in frank expansion such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Azerbeijan, Chile and Colombia. These initiatives should be directed to countries with urbanization processes ongoing and with no tradition in Architecture.

In this way, Portuguese architects have in their hands the possibility of demonstrating their value worlwide, leveraging this "brand" that is the Portuguese Architecture.

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