— 26.11.2O23
Pavilhão de Portugal

— 26.11.2O23
Palazzo Franchetti

A vital element for human and non-human species, as well as a metaphorical and emotional element, fresh water is simultaneously political and economic. Therefore, it is urgent to have a public discussion about the protection, management, and future of this natural resource. These are global issues with dramatic manifestations in different areas of the Portuguese territory.

Focusing on seven distinct hydrogeographies, Fertile Futures commissions young architects, in collaboration with experts from other areas of knowledge, to present propositional models for a more sustainable tomorrow, in non-hierarchical cooperation between disciplines, generations, and species.

The seven case studies exemplify the anthropocentric action on finite natural water resources, namely: in the Tâmega Basin; in the International Douro; in Middle Tejo; in the Alqueva Reservoir; in the Mira River; in Lagoa das Sete Cidades; and in Madeira's Streams.

Fertile Futures advocates the pertinence of architecture's role in designing a collaborative, decarbonised, and decolonised future, based on a heterogeneous approach, open to experimentation, dialogue, and joint reflection, focused on the reality of the Portuguese territory.

Hydrogeography Workshops

Expanding the ephemeral existence of a national representation in Venice, Fertile Futures will involve new generations in the development of solutions for the reservoirs of the future, based on close contact with seven hydrogeographies, exemplifying the anthropocentric action on water, natural and finite resources. 

Young architectural ateliers are encouraged to work with specialists from other disciplinary areas, starting from design laboratories. Based on innovation and mediation strategies which seek to understand different scales of reality, the common imagination of more positive scenarios is encouraged and other ways of performing architecture are also fostered.

Based on local involvement with the specificities of territorially dispersed hydrogeographies, the propositional solutions under development in the Design Teams aim to promote forms of global action, as well as the discussion of new ways of operating at the territorial scale, as well as at the small scale.

Tâmega Basin

Space Transcribers
Fieldwork map of the Tâmega’s hydro-geography. Drawing, 2023. © Space Transcribers

The water of the Tâmega Basin, once at the heart of all the irrigated land, is today the primary resource for one of Europe’s largest green hydro energy plants. The Tâmega Electroproducer System, also known as Gigabattery, has brought significant changes to the region by demonstrating the contrast between two ways of managing water: as a local and common asset and as a commercial product for creating energy.
By exploring ways of articulating between the different scales and times present within this territory, a dialogue begins, born of the mediating capacity of architecture, seeking to mitigate the impact of this metamorphosis of the local territory, flora, fauna and human life.

International Douro

Dulcineia Santos Studio
Work mat during the study trip to the Douro, 2023. © Dulcineia Santos Studio – Laboratório do Douro Internacional, 2023

The investigation focuses on the upper reaches of the banks of the International Douro, a region emblematic of the relationship of dependency and sharing that exists between Portugal and Spain, and which underlines the relevance of water in soil and ecosystem conservation beyond its mere use as an energy source and an essential good for human consumption. As a way to combat the desertification of an increasingly depopulated area, we propose that ancestral techniques and natural systems be relearned, and that the symbolic dimension of natural elements be restored.

Middle Tejo

Guida Marques
About the medium, 2023. © Guida Marques

The impact of the mining industry is plain to see in the region of the Middle Tejo, not least in the widespread contamination of the water in the Zêzere River and the surrounding water tables. The detection of high levels of heavy metals, above the World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum, is a particularly grave development at a time when a proposed transfer is being considered to increase the flow of the Tejo River, thus guaranteeing water supply to the Lisbon metropolitan area. Rethinking the policies and priorities of extractivism, the proposal advocates the progressive renaturalisation of the landscape, in a manifest process of recovery and decontamination, based on the political and activist tools of architecture.

Alqueva Reservoir

Reconstruction of an artifact used in the decade 2020–2030 to accelerate the process of natural regeneration of the soil and water of Alqueva. Oficina Pedrêz, Porto, Portugal, 2023. @Lara Jacinto

Presented in the political sphere as a textbook case, the Alqueva Reservoir is responsible for the extreme transformation of a landscape – be it dryland or irrigated – by the creation of the largest artificial lake in Europe. Its water enables emergent energy needs to be met, stimulates growing attractiveness for tourism and, above all, contributes to the high levels of productivity in the incumbent agrobusiness, which is simultaneously responsible for the contamination and over-exploitation of the soil. By working on the consequences of this change and being attentive to its impact on the diversity of ecosystems, state structures and social inequality, Pedrêz and landscape architect Aurora Carapinha explore the operational and technical dimension of architecture in the development of decontamination and soil production mechanisms and in a forecast of the future of the region.

Irrigation Perimeter of Mira River

Corpo Atelier
Fractured Aqueduct sketch no.5. Collage and graphite on paper, 2023. © Corpo Atelier

The Mira River is surrounded by a wide irrigation perimeter currently dominated by exogenous investments and interests, imposed on established farming models of smaller scale or ambition. Taking advantage of pre-existing networks, high-yield farms contribute to unequal access to water resources, as well as to soil and water contamination through the use of accelerating agrochemicals. At the same time, its viability is based on the super-exploitation of immigrant workers, hidden agents, subject to precarious working and housing conditions. The proposal advocates the political potential of architecture, based on the denouncing of situations of exploitation and superimposition, alerting to the lack of regulation of this system.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades

Ilhéu Atelier
Wall Atlas, 2023. © Ilhéu Atelier

Lagoa das Sete Cidades is the largest natural freshwater reservoir in the archipelago of the Azores, and also one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal. Despite being romanticised, farming is responsible for the accelerated degradation of ecosystems in the basin’s territory and in the water of the lakes. Excessive use of chemical fertilisers for pastures gives rise to eutrophication processes, causing significant emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as well as the deterioration of the bio-physical-chemical balance of water, making its use unfeasible. The proposal explores the utopian (re)imagination of the region’s future, fighting the main source of pollution in the Azorean lakes, by critically rethinking land use, in direct conjunction with the social, cultural, heritage and natural dimensions that define the landscape of the Azores.

Madeira Streams

Ponto Atelier
Postal ilustrado do caminho da água. Colagem digital sobre fotografia de Perestrelos, Cabo Girão, Madeira, 2023. © Ponto Atelier

The repeated occurrence of flash floods in Madeira’s Streams highlights the price to be paid for the rapid and unplanned urbanisation of the territory, aggravated by the increasingly frequent peaks of precipitation, as a result of climate change, whose increased responsibility also lies with the unbridled and carbonised construction sector. The challenge implies critical reflection on the trauma associated with these events, developing hypotheses for the revitalisation of the water lines, now heavily artificial, thus recovering the resilience lost in the meantime.

Assemblies of Thought

Supporting and expanding the work developed by the Design Teams, Fertile Futures has a group of consultants, from different disciplinary areas and a wide territorial scope. It constitutes an independent thought laboratory that informs and supports the construction of speculative architectural visions of social, environmental and climate justice, in an active and participatory way, fostering the development of multidisciplinary practices.

The Assemblies of Thought, in multiple locations between Portugal and Venice, allow for the monitoring, support and expansion of all these experiences, deepening and enriching the thematic approach, as well as contributing to “tracing a path for the public”, involving the local, Portuguese and international community in the discussion of the proposed central theme. The consultants are: Álvaro Domingues, Ana Tostões, Andres Lepik, Francisco Ferreira, Luca Astorri, Margarida Waco, Marina Otero, Patti Anahory, Pedro Gadanho and Pedro Ignacio Alonso.

Trienal de Lisboa
Fábrica da Cerveja
Porta 33 – Escola do Porto Santo
Porto Santo