Here be dragons, by Porto Design Biennale 2021

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The issues on the table are as simple as these: how to redesign a city that is inclusive that engages those who most need to feel included? The answer was provided by the project “Here be Dragons”, by the Zuloark + Colectivo Warehouse, who summoned a group of eleven people of the Association “Somos Nós” and of the “Associação dos Amigos das Deficiências Intelectuais e Desenvolvimentais (AADID), associations that work with people with intellectual disabilities, to rethink the city.

And so, this fringe of society who is not normally included to take part in the shaping of social projects had the opportunity to do so in the scope of Porto Design Biennale 2021. The “Here be Dragons” project challenged the group to set to work on creating pieces of urban furniture that suits their needs, thus issuing a different way to think the urban space.

Stage one was to study the territory, with a walk from the Pasteleira to the River Douro, to grab inspiration to designing the benches. Following this stage, it was time to enter the ateliers and bring their ideas into shape. The workshops were held between 7 and 10 July, with participants designing customised garden benches that will be temporarily set up in the Pasteleira Park, to raise awareness on different needs and perspectives of the world, through simple objects as bench gardens.

“These pieces will later travel to various neighbourhoods and close towns related to the hometowns of the participants. This tour is part of a process of revisiting the personal history of all the participants, through routes designed by them, and in collaboration with local historians and neighbours who can share with us the curiosities and anecdotes of these different places through unique and creative perspectives”, reads the PDB website.

It is worth explaining that the name of the project “Here be dragons” (Hic sunt dragoes) dates back to the medieval maps, an expression used to refer to unchartered territories, as unchartered is also the practice of involving special people in what the so-called ordinary people see as just that – ordinary. Time to learn how to see things trough different lenses, is it not? This is called collaborative artistic practices, and it is promoted under the Porto Design Biennale.

This second edition of Porto Design Biennale (PDB) is themed “Alter-Realidades” and brings along 49 activities, from talks to exhibitions and even radio shows. PDB started on 2 June in-between Porto and Matosinhos, and it will run until 25 July, where people of both cities (and of other places, as well) will be able to enjoy exhibitions, workshops and performances, both in-person or following an online agenda, prepared to meet the demands of a pandemic world, still.