Habitabis Festival, by #RDgrantee Colectivo Warehouse

In the series of interviews with #RDgrantees, this time we feature Colectivo Warehouse - who joined the 2017 Idea Camp in Madrid. The Colectivo - as the name indicates - comprises many individuals - Rúben Teodoro, Ricardo Morais, Sebastião de Botton, Matilde Mozzi, Emanuel Falappa, Olivia Page - and works with many more people around them - Inês Coimbra, Álvaro Cidrais, Ana Adega, Tiago Mota Saraiva, Rita Silva, Ana Catarino, Joana da Fonseca Martins, António Brito Guterres, Gonçalo Folgado. It was Rúben Teodoro who answered our questions.

Rúben, what is Habitabis Festival about?
Habitabis Festival reduces the gap between local governments and groups/communities in need for basic housing conditions, by inviting both the inhabitants and the local administration to tackle and share similar topics with their European and worldwide peers.

Rehousing/Relocation is always a very complex procedure still influenced through time by several political desires, revealing often out-dated methods and approaches.

In our believe this is still happening mainly because these projects were/are created using top-down methods not focused on the population, their contextual complexity and individual necessities. There have been some efforts to share and promote alternative approaches. However, these methodologies are mostly within the academic fields or inside closed circuits of architecture, rarely capable to achieve a direct way with local stakeholders.

Using the festival to share similar experiences among identical social contexts within different cultural environments, gives everybody involved a mutual understanding of common ground as they are addressing the same type of complex processes, personal experiences and achievements. This knowledge sharing also creates a greater sense of empathy, as the inhabitants feel accompanied on their journey instead of marginalized and ghettoized.

Instigating participation in this processes, with dialogue, share and critical propaganda, it allows the society to change the way we address to this problematic, finding more answers on the plurality of results and not so much in the standardization of an generic top-down method.

There is an urgency to create bridges that connect and share knowledge between all the European communities and stakeholders within rehousing processes. Habitabis Festival is a consistent tool for sharing experiences and knowledge inside the poverty-stricken communities. We intend to generate more bottom-up solutions structured by inside expertise, also enhancing a more open and collective learning. Combining local bottom-up methodologies with the already existing need of rehousing, we can aim, with a strong input, for the development of new strategies to reduce complexity and disinformation that is usually related with these topics.

How did your participation in the Idea Camp help you transform your idea into an effective project?

Idea Camp helped the development of this idea through out the general sharing of experiences that we could relate the idea with. Idea feeders, idea makers and facilitators, had a direct influence in the enhancing of the idea, by giving different perspectives about it.

There were two steps that stood out. Step two, helped to have a wider view over the first draft of stakeholders involved in the original idea. The camp helped to organize the bigger picture of all the actors that would be needed for the future steps of the project. There was a role-play with all the other Idea Makers, as if they were real project partners, and that was very interesting because it initiated a lot of discussion and adjustments.

It was also very positive to put our Ideas in a future perspective, doing an exercise that we wouldn’t be able to do by ourselves so easily. Learning how to disseminate and communicate was also very important because in Habitabis Festival communication is a crucial piece.       

The Idea Feeders and Facilitators had a very active role during the Idea Camp, and their contribution was outstanding, not only during their Steps, but also on the chill out moments and during the after “work”. The network created during Idea Camp was also a key asset for Habitabis Festival, as now we can reach more easily peers and communities throughout Europe.

photo by Habitabis Festival

photo by Habitabis Festival

Did you meet any difficulties in implementing your project?
We decided to start developing the event’s structure, in parallel with the gathering of resources, partners and logistics to implement a rehousing process in the community of Terras da Costa, in Portugal. Although, without being able to predict it, in October we had a huge step back on the development of the project because of municipality change of board. We had then to stop, reflect and restart all over again. But that was also a good time to rethink the festival as a tool, and see it from another perspective.

In general we were able to engage some specific actors from local communities. However we notice a difficulty from the social housing communities to understand why and how they are important to be present in these moments, like the one Habitabis creates. They felt that the discussion would be something “out of their league”, and that they “don’t have any academic or professional skills to share”.

We struggled to have the Festival and its concept spread trough the general media, to raise awareness and social interest in it. Although it is an issue that strikes thousands of Portuguese and European inhabitants, the topic is not “appealing” to the general public and consequently the traditional media channels. Nevertheless we had the opportunity to share it in international and local platforms like Urbamonde, Citytoolbox, Wonderland, Viral Agenda, Evensi, Espaço de Arquitetura and Correio da Manhã - printed newspaper, and among numerous social media platforms shares and posts.

photo by Habitabis Festival

photo by Habitabis Festival

With all this behind you, what are your plans for the further development of your idea? 
Make the festival visible as a replicable tool so it can grow and connect a bigger network of stakeholders, communities and government in Portugal. We see a possibility of replicating this festival methodology in other cities in Portugal to discuss about Rehousing processes, Housing and Public space. We believe that it’s a powerful tool that creates an enhancement in the dialogue between communities, technicians and politicians.

One of the major successes of this project is its ability to engage people, entities and partners - Câmara Municipal de Lisboa – DMC, BLX – Biblioteca de Marvila, Untold, Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa, Rumo crl - around it. We have been receiving a very positive feedback from the contacts that we made during the festival. That shows us that the concept has space to grow and it’s the moment to involve more stakeholders and supporters for the future.