When one examines Inês Lobo’s architecture, the immediate feeling is that of a certain depuration that strips construction to its bare bones. The spatial quality of sometimes even outdoor spaces is achieved by the exposed structure. In its directness one feels a kind of self-confidence that is very uplifting in terms of the atmospheres she is able to generate.
Such architecture may be the only possible architecture when dealing with very challenging circumstances: a part of Lisbon that has always been poor, but whose decline has been accentuated by immigration from Asia and Africa and that needs to be improved in the most critical phase of Portugal’s economic crisis. This crisis meant the total absence of public investment—no institutions with a mandate for coordinating operations in the public space were in a position to do anything. Interventions in the city were left to the private sector, which by definition has neither the capacity nor the interest to take care of the common good. Inês Lobo’s pared yet elegant architecture may be a way to placate real estate voracity, so even in its own logic of producing private benefit, it may not harm the quality of the public realm.
The neutral yet character-laden architecture she produces may be the right frame to host cultural diversity and build social identity. This may offer a clue as to how the city, if well designed despite the complexity of the constraints, may be posited as the hinge between Europe and migrant communities, where public space should enable several cultures to coexist at the same time.