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Fabrica de Alternativas

Building the alternative

Case 4

Factory for Alternatives

Fabrica de Alternativas - Alges,Lisboa
Factory for Alternatives – Algés,Lisboa

The effects of restoring a building extend far beyond its physical facet. The project enables the recreation of social relationships, bringing life to abandoned or rundown spaces, generating wealth and dynamics, bringing beauty back to a landscape. And, in the case of the Factory for Alternatives, essentially raising awareness and teaching about different and alternative ways of community living.

Located in the centre of Algés, in Lisbon, the Factory for Alternatives is a project under construction and in constant transformation and ongoing for just over three months. The initiative is backed by the Algés Popular Assembly, an independent citizens organisation, the Factory opened in a former textile factory and is self-managed by all persons wishing to sign up to the project. This self-management implies that everybody participates in decision making processes and opinions are mutually respected. However, above all else, through the contribution of all and in the definition of consensus, problems arising in the community get resolved.

João Pestana
João Pestana

João Pestana, one of the project activists, recalls the fairly difficult project launch. We began looking for an appropriate and available space to house the project and, despite the large number of abandoned properties across the council, that was not easy. After the option for the factory, we had to clear the ground floor of the huge weaving machines that weighed tons and then clean the installation and begin preparing it to host the initiatives. The walls were decorated with canvases or artistic works, masks and designs or otherwise given over to shelves of book following their donation to the project by the library.

Taking advantage of the furniture already present in the installations, gathering donations and even collecting materials that others were throwing away, we set up the facilities and conditions for the varied initiatives that currently take place in the Factory. Everything from yoga classes, theatre, sewing, descriptive geometry and drawing through to soap, ceramics and recycling workshops, the Factory is a place of learning open freely to anyone. And what do they have to give in exchange? According to João Pestana, only some availability to participate in the project whether in terms of contributing towards managing the space but also giving classes in whatever proves of worth. Furthermore, as he explains, “when people come in here, we ask them to become members. They do not pay anything for this: they sign a piece of paper, get a card and become members. And, because this is self-managed, they immediately become a member of the management of this place.” Alternatively, whenever possible, some contribution to paying the rent and meeting the costs as “the idea is holding everybody who comes here responsible for this payment and it is not just ours”, he adds.

Despite the forecast initial public mistrust, the Factory community is steadily attracting the participation of ever more people both very locally and from other parts of Lisbon. And while many drop in at the Factory for the free activities, others become regular presences and dedicated contributors. The activities have already tripled since the project began and the classes and workshops have been joined by cinema nights, dinners of varying ranges of exoticness and poetry sessions.

Restoring the building the people taught how each person has a valid contribution to make towards resolving the problems in their own

In the short period of time since project launch, the Factory has transformed an abandoned and rundown space into a vibrant local place of activity in which people enter freely and debate ideas, culture, proposals and solutions to problems. Restoring the building the people taught how each person has a valid contribution to make towards resolving the problems in their own communities. As João Pestana put it: “If society, as it is, does not provide the solution to people, then people have to look for it themselves.”

Factory of Alternatives Largo da Vila Madalena, 3 (behind the Chapel of N. Srª. Do Cabo) – Algés, Lisbon
Facebook: www.facebook.com/fabricadealternativas

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