It’s fair to say the Palácio Pombal in Lisbon has seen better days, but this 17th Century building can be forgiven for showing its age a little – especially when one considers all the action that it’s seen. During the second half of last century it served as the Spanish embassy, and as everyone knows, whenever there is a demonstration to be held or an injustice to be publicised, the angry mob makes a beeline for the diplomatic district. A particularly notable brouhaha here protesting the planned execution of Spanish political activists in 1975 – the year of General Franco’s death – led to all the building’s records being destroyed in a fire.
No stranger to political statements then, the Palácio Pombal, and there is no peace on the immediate horizon either. Another group has recently occupied the building, in an artistic sense at least, in The Real and Other Fictions, a curated collection of interventions happening as part of Close, Closer, the Lisbon Architecture Triennale. Re-imagined by an international band of artists, the rooms will play host to various talks, dinners and workshops throughout the larger three-month event.
Portuguese collective Friendly Fire have taken up the mantel of the 18th century Academia dos Ilustrados which met regularly here to discuss important works of literature and philosophy. Sonda espacial L.Q.F.U.B. (L.Q.F.U.B. Spacecraft) is a publication that will be created during the course of the group’s time at the palace, and the topic of spatial practice in architecture is addressed in the form of their workspace as well as through the printed page.
Sala da Nação – Embaixada de Terra Nenhuma (The Nation Room – Embassy of No Land) is by Portugal’s Paulo Moreira and Angolan Kiluanji Kia Henda. Set in a post-democratic world of uncertain time, the pair’s room uses mirrors to empower the viewer as a leader but simultaneously the led. The new order makes its mark on proceedings by subverting the traditional elements of an embassy reception room – portrait, statue and flag.
There are a number of other interesting projects going on – find out what the Supper Club chefs are cooking up for instance. The Real and Other Fictions runs until 15 December. It’s available to view from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 3pm to 10pm.