Living and Learning
Living and Learning
The Vila Flores Project revitalizes an architectural complex and facilitates cultural, social and educational projects in Rio Grande do Sul’s capital, Porto Alegre.
Two multistory buildings and a warehouse affectionately referred to as “Lutzenberger’s little buildings” as they were designed by German Joseph Lutzenberger at the end of the 1920s – this complex has been used as a collaborative space since 2012, bringing together cultural and social projects as well as educational initiatives. The multifunctional space is known as Vila Flores, providing a workplace for artists, designers from various fields, architects and other creative professionals. It is located in Porto Alegre’s Floresta neighborhood, a district that is beginning to be revitalized.
The idea to restore the buildings—which are historic heritage sites of the city—and to have them house cultural activities came from the Wallig family, the heirs of the complex, and was developed along with additional collaborators. “Everything was thought out and designed with a great deal of research and collaboration with Porto Alegre residents who have participated since the beginning and who have been concerned not only with the building’s preservation, but also with the construction of communal spaces that would make culture accessible and give rise to a more humane city,” says Antonia Wallig, who, together with Aline Bueno, is Vila Flores’ cultural manager.
In 2013 the first events geared toward the public took place, including plays, expositions, workshops and concerts. But it was only in 2014 that the project took on its current configuration, when 20 initiatives started to occupy individual workspaces. “Each initiative renovated its own space to reflect the individual character, and today those initiatives, which we call “residents,” are developing their own events within the context of their work activities; they are also creating shared projects that promote important dialogue between different areas of expertise,” Wallig explains.
Consistent Educational Proposals
Vila Flores is managed by the Vila Flores Cultural Association which in addition to coordinating the space in collaboration with the local residents is also in charge of proposing a cultural agenda geared toward the public. Activities promoted by the residents themselves are given priority, but projects are also realized outside, as long as they are developed in conjunction with the Association. “As Vila Flores is not an event space, but rather one reserved for cultural projects, we value the substance of the proposals as well as their educational aspects,” says Aline Bueno. In addition to specific events, Vila Flores has official visitor days. Every Tuesday afternoon, all of the workshops open their doors to the public.
The management of the space is centered on ideas of collaboration, sharing, solidarity, community and creativity. “We don’t think and act according to a logic of accumulation of monetary capital; instead, we function based on lived experiences, the exchange of knowledge, living together with people of different profiles,” explains Bueno.
Lipstick and Cement
Diversity is really what sets the tone for the entire project. One of the resident initiatives is, for instance, the project Mulher em Construção, which trains women to work in construction. The project operates on two levels: one being the ”Lipstick and Cement” workshops where women learn to make small repairs that will serve them in the field of construction as well as for their own personal use. Scholarships funded through international grants are given to students that are socially at risk so that they can attend the program for free. “Many housewives have sought us out in order to learn how to make their own domestic repairs, thus saving on their budget,” president of Mulher em Construção, Bia Kern, tells us .
There is also training for professionals of similar areas (architects, engineers, interior designers) who want to literally put their hand in the dough and understand construction in practice.
To see the world in a more colorful way
Another education project is Convex School, which works with children and youth from 8 to 18 years of age in order to develop a sense of leadership based on finding solutions to real problems. At Vila Flores, the students, in partnership with the residents, create projects with socio-environmental and sociocultural impacts, generating income and opportunities in the Floresta neighborhood. “Being in an environment like Vila Flores brings the students into contact with different realities and makes them see the world in a more colorful way,” says Bruno Bittencourt, founding member of the Convex School.
Another resident of Vila Flores brings together the idea of the traditional drink of Rio Grande do Sul, mate, with spaces dedicated to the exchange of experiences and free experimentation in computer science: the Matehackers project. Operating in an open and plural manner, without assigning titles of directors, partners or members, Matehackers carries out various activities united by the idea of bringing people together around technology.
Theater companies, video artists’ spaces, sound studios, workshops for bicycle restoration and various studios complete the colorful, collaboratively and multidisciplinarily managed space that is the mosaic of Vila Flores.