Lisbon 2016 – “I see Portugal as a step mother who told me to go away”. LABOR documentary and film installation at Lisbon Architecture Triennale features the point of view of Portuguese builders, students, engineers and architects who live and work in London. Brexit? “A problem. The UK ha a real shortage of skilled labour and skilled architects”.
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Almost motionless videos frame several construction sites in London while a voice over narrates the stories, opinions and concerns of Portuguese immigrants in the British capital. “The LABOR documentary acts as a conduit between their experience in contributing to the form of an alien landscape and those at home” say filmmakers Pete Collard and Tim Abrahams and cinematographer Richard John Seymour.
The film explores the nuanced, yet complex, relationships between builders and building but it also compares the Portuguese and British building industry and culture. “Not making names, but a leading Portuguese practice pays 600 €/month to an architect that has been working in that office for three years”. On the other side, “London big studios’ only concern is profit; design is an afterthought”. “You can be an architect and gay in London. It allows subjectivities. People come here because they’re much more nourished by possibilities… and the money”.
Education is a major issue too. “Architecture school in Portugal is like being in the military. I was scared to talk with the chiefs sometimes. And no-one is original. Everyone is told to do the same way. But the good thing about that kind of education is that you learn to draw well and learn to organise space. British students can’t draw like we can”.
Collard, Abrahams and Seymour have interviewed workers from Portugal on the Brexit issue as well. Some were worried about the skilled work-force shortage and wouldn’t see themselves living in the UK in the future. At the same time “Business is good right now. To tell you the truth it’s got better since Brexit. I don’t know if it’s because people want to fix their houses before they move or what”.
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LABOR documentary is on show at Palácio Pombal until December 11 (Rua de O Século 79, Lisbon – Free admission). The project responds to the FORM OF FORM theme of the IV Lisbon Architecture Triennale. The event features also the Building Site main exhibition that explores how different dynamics in the construction site contribute to the the architectural, human and social final result.
All frames from LABOR documentary – Images: courtesy of Lisbon Architecture Triennale.