Local hub diary #2 - Lisbon: Casa Capitão facing transformation and gentrification in the neighborhood of Beato
This time, our focus is on the local hub held in Lisbon, Portugal. We met two individuals from the CTL team, the force behind the new Casa Capitão venue and part of the Slash Transition project. Gonçalo Riscado, is co-founder of CTL and the managing director, while Inês Henriques is booker and project developer for the organization.
Hello Inês, hello Gonçalo! Could you please introduce yourselves and Casa Capitâo?
For almost two decades, we have been involved in Lisbon’s cultural scene with our CTL company, organizing festivals, events, and managing two venues. In line with our different activities, we are currently developing Casa Capitão, a new cultural center in the Beato neighborhood on the Eastside of Lisbon. The project, initiated five years ago, involves renovating the former house of the Military Maintenance Commander. Despite the venue not being fully finished, we made use of a terrace for cultural programming throughout the pandemic, and we continue to engage in various collaborations. The venue is set to open in spring 2025 and is already part of the Slash Transition project.
How would you describe the territory in which you are building this new cultural center?
Over the past five to six years, the area has been undergoing substantial changes. Former industrial spaces are being repurposed for high-class housing, new businesses, and office buildings.
The majority of musical production that comes out of this territory is mostly focused on hip hop. Ten years ago, it was cheaper to move here. We also have a lot of artists with their studios here as well. It’s also a place that is common and known for gathering an artistic community that produces music here. The landscape is currently undergoing significant changes, primarily driven by the sale of studio-rented buildings, resulting in the displacement of artists from the area. Up until now, it’s also a type of occupation in this territory.
What were the motivations at the beginning for embarking on the Slash Transition project?
The described transformation is reshaping the area and significantly impacting its existing residents. We encountered a similar scenario when we launched our first venue, Musicbox, in 2006 in Cais Do Sobre. Although it was initially a central location in Lisbon, it was associated with sailing and featured numerous shops. Through revitalization, it attracted new residents and rapidly underwent gentrification, transforming into a highly tourist-centric area. This theme is crucial to us and serves as a major motivation to participate in the Slash Transition project. Upon connecting with the Trempo team, we realized it aligns perfectly with our objectives as we venture into this new territory. This project provides us with an opportunity to engage, understand, and contribute to the dynamics of the evolving space.
How do you want to integrate this place into the existing ecosystem?
We are establishing a venue with international significance, yet it would be inappropriate if the space were not actively utilized by the local community. Collaboration with the existing residents who authentically represent the local territory is essential. Our aim is to engage with and support their initiatives, fostering the development of a shared space for all inhabitants, including those from the working-class demographic, emerging artists and producers, and the new investors in the area. Striking a balance between integration and maintaining our international dimension is challenging but imperative, as the success of our project hinges on this equilibrium.
This makes the transition with the next question. Who were the members of your local hub, especially to discuss all the topics you just mentioned, and how did you choose them?
We aimed to create a local hub bridging the key players driving the transformative changes in the territory and the existing and incoming local community. For instance, participants from Hub Creative Do Beato, where we’re situated, actively contribute to the area’s evolution. Engaging with the local community, we collaborated with Nuno Varela, a community leader from Kriativu, involved in social projects across the railroad. Furthermore, we had DCitizens which encourages the citizens empowerment and a PhD researcher that explores the ongoing changes in Beato. The Marvila library, a cultural space that hosts significant local events, and the programmer from the Iminente festival and cultural project were also part of the local hub.
Were the public authorities part of your local hub and do they support your project?
Casa Capitão is privately managed, although the buildings are municipally owned. The project is made feasible through a 40-year contract with the Lisbon Municipality, securing a low rent. Moreover, the municipality’s influence is manifest through the association with the creative hub of Beato. However, we intentionally refrained from involving public authorities directly in the local hub to avoid a purely theoretical approach. Our objective is to engage individuals actively contributing to the developments in the territory.
What were the conclusions in terms of territory, observations, themes and what will you present to the artist-in-residence?
There’s a noticeable distinction in how the territory is evolving on the riverside compared to the changes on the other side of the railroad. On the riverside, significant tension exists, marked by a clear clash between the older population, local communities, and newcomers. Across the railroad, there are fewer changes, and the tension is less pronounced. We formulated a hypothesis, focusing on the liminal space between gentrification and non-gentrification. How can we delay it? How can we create a space where everything coexists? The main conclusions revolve around our experiences with the changes in this territory.
Which topics have generated shared opinions? And others that have maybe divided the group?
Nuno from Kriativu envisions an optimistic future, believing that respectful collaboration with newcomers can provide opportunities for enhanced information, education, and interaction within the local population. He asserts that even older residents desire such spaces and neighborhood developments. He holds a more positive outlook than we do. Another topic concerns the theoretical realm of gentrification, where two approaches exist: one aiming to stop it completely, and the other seeking to delay it by fostering shared spaces and common uses for the territory.
Last question: what brings the shared experience with the other partner of Slash Transition?
We observed significant parallels between Nantes and the challenges emerging in that region. The history and evolution of Île de Nantes closely mirror our current experience in Beato. Georgia’s insights into the tensions within their territory and cultural venues were also enlightening. Hearing about Tunisia and their impactful work, though not directly applicable to our unique context, proved inspiring. Engaging in other European projects consistently provides valuable learning experiences for us.
Members of the local hub in Lisbon: Nuno Varela (Kriativu), Mafalda Corrêa Nunes (PhD University of Lisbon), Margarida Mata (Iminente), Ana Pires (DCitizens), Paulo José Silva (Biblioteca de Marvila), Susana Seabra & Isabel Santos (Hub Criativo do Beato).
Interview by Cécile Moroux