PORTO – A cyborg spider web, an abstract fossil of urban decay, a glitch in the Tron universe. These are just a few of the images potentially invoked by Metamorfose, a new public installation from local studio FAHR 021.3 in the São Bento area of Porto. The distorted, seafoam mesh – digitally modelled with 200 uniquely-warped intersections and realised with six tonnes of steel – stretches over a 28-by-11-m gap in a historic ruin. The piece will be exhibited until July and represents one of many recent commissions from Porto Lazer – a publicly-funded outreach organisation that has staged various interventions under the name ‘Locomotiva’ to promote culture and tourism in what FAHR 021.3 describe as an ‘almost invisible’ area of the city centre. Team founders Filipa Frois Almeida and Hugo Reis share more about the project.
What is this particular ruin that hosts your installation, and does its history have any significance to the piece?
In the last century, an avenue was built to create access to the new Dom Luis I Bridge that crosses the Douro River. This process involved the destruction of a dense complex that created a kind of tear in the city centre. This opening has remained intact for the last 70 years among some of Porto’s most important landmarks, clearly demanding intervention. Over the years, several renowned architects have made proposals, but none were ever built. This caused the ruin to have a special meaning in the city. Taking into account all of these facts, we developed a mesh that works almost like a seam between the elements around it. We bound the ruin with its surroundings without covering it and so preserved its dignity.
What sort of reactions has the piece generated so far?
Most of the reviews have been extremely positive. Porto is hungry for new approaches to the city’s culture, especially in regards to this ruin. We have even received personal messages from people who have passed by that ruin for years completely indignant with its condition and now thank us for the courage to act. On social media, people who identify with the piece share what it means to them for those who might be more confused by it. It gives us immense pleasure to feel that Porto’s citizens have become Metamorfose’s ambassadors.
Does this project follow the legacy of previous works from FAHR 021.3 such as ‘Eine Moment Bitte’ and ‘Reflexo*Oxelfer’ that, while distorting their surroundings, also perhaps reveal some truth about it?
We simply like to encourage free interpretation by offering the public different stimuli, something that actively disrupts. If anything, we want to transport our audience to a new reality. For Metamorfose, we could have just built a regular grid, and it would more than likely still have aroused public attention and capitalised on the potential of the space. However, from our point of view this would not make sense. It’s the awkwardness of the structure that makes Metamorfose so strange and beautiful at the same time. Our intention was to create dissonance between utility and aesthetic, ingenuity and nonsense, making people question whether a structure always has to serve a function.
Photos courtesy of FAHR 021.3