Artistic urban interventions, informality and public sphere: Research insights from three ephemeral urban appropriations on a cultural district

Pedro Costa, Ricardo Lopes


Artistic intervention in cultural districts can be an outstanding viewpoint to understand the multiple layers of uses and segregations that bring everyday life vitality to the complex organisms that cities are. Urban informality contexts can be fundamental for the expression of this diversity and to liminality strategies, particularly interesting in the case of artistic intervention, as artistic creativity is often about transgression, differentiation and, therefore, conflict. Small initiatives that develop in an informal and ephemeral way by artists who choose the city as stage for their work, exploring the ambiguous and flexible boundaries between public and private spaces, are particularly interesting, evidencing the conflicts usually verified on creative milieus but being also important to keep these places as vernacular as possible and to avoid gentrification processes. In this perspective, this article aims to discuss this relation between urban interventions, informality and public sphere appropriation, analysing the way informal artistic dynamics can contribute to urban revitalization, territorial resilience and to the enhancement of ‘real’ creative milieus. Drawing on a research-action based methodology the authors explore the results and impacts of three experiences of urban intervention that they developed in three consecutive years in informal urban contexts in Bairro Alto, Lisbon, Portugal. These ephemeral artistic  interventions introduced new spaces of public use in the city, performing different public and private spaces, and bringing them to the public sphere. They created ‘new’ zones that re-gain a use in the city, contributing to the vitality and symbolic centrality of this area.


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