If anyone visits Lisbon in the next couple of weeks, they should be sure to venture into the neighbourhood of Graça, which is currently hosting 200 international designers and architects for the annual Meeting of Design Students (MEDS). Every summer for the past four years, a new European city has been subjected to the experiments and interventions of the participants that spend two weeks designing and building pilot-projects, with the aim of improving public spaces.
This year, the organising team of MEDS has themed the workshop “RE:action”, asking the student to design for a response from the inhabitants of Graça, which in recent years have experienced a decay of public spaces, with the loss of public life to follow. Each of the 15 pilot-projects are designed and built by a team of 10-18 enthused international students that have been chosen through a competition to represent their respective country. The projects are described in detail here: http://www.reaction.com.pt/projects.php.
Besides the pilot-projects, this year’s MEDS also comprises a series of conferences that aim to activate the critical minds of the participants. Every evening, an “Urban Parliament” takes place, in which the students discuss “urban rights” and topics related to the theme of the year. The debate is filmed and will be published at a later date, but it will also be summed up in the “Declaration for Urban Rights” that is to be presented at the upcoming Lisbon Trienniale (http://www.trienaldelisboa.com/en/).
When I was in Lisbon last week, I took part in the event for the third year in a row. Every year I have been amazed by the ambition and enthusiasm of the participants, but this year is especially precious, because of the projects’ large involvement with the community in Lisbon. One team is developing a unique signage identity for the neighbourhood, another is redecorating some of the run-down facades and others focus on creating hubs for the community, including shade and activity options. Unfortunately I had to leave before the end of the workshop, but all the results will be formally presented on Sunday the 18th, and they will also be posted on the reaction website (see above) and on the official MEDS webpage ( http://meds-workshop.com/ )
The series of experimental pilot-projects are implemented in Graça for at least a couple of months, and will make an interesting visit for anyone concerned with public life in public spaces!