Vernacular Aesthetics

“To look through a Becher book is to take a lesson in vernacular aesthetics ; it is to learn to read differences in composition, rhythm and formal solutions where an ordinarily eye would see only indifference and standardisation; it is to derive intense pleasure from your own capacity of discrimination; it is to suffer from your inability to back it up by a technical vocabulary that would make it possible for you to detail a gasometer’s architecture as if it were a cathedral.”

Thierry de Duve, ‘Bernd et Hilla Becher ou la photographie monumentaire’ in Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, no. 39, pp. 118-29.


São Domingos Mine

The São Domingos Mines in Alentejo, close to Mértola, were abandoned in 1966 after centuries of mining activities.

The area now resembles a post-apocalyptic waste land with its abandoned buildings, lagoons that are full of waste from the mines and as a result have high acidic levels and unusual bright metallic colors and a fascinating barren landscape due to the mining activities, pollution and a general hot climate. It is a beautiful site for those that can appreciate industrial decay.

The town of São Domingos itself has the renovated old mining quarters and an enormous mining pit. More interesting however, is the walk from Santana de Cambas to São Domingos following the old railroad, which is around 15 km round trip, you will very likely be all alone in this barren landscape with these old mining structures along the way and it will be walk you will not easily forget.

Carlos Lopes Pavilion

The Carlos Lopes Pavilion was built in 1923 in celebration of the 100th year anniversary of Brazil’s independence. It now lies abandoned at the edge of Parque Eduardo VII, initially known as Parque da Liberdade (Liberty Park), although until the 90’s it was a venue for concerts from bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Laboratorio Chimico

The Laboratorio Chimico is part of the Museu de Ciência da Universidade de Lisboa (‘Museum of Science of the University of Lisbon’). It is a restored 19th century chemistry laboratory that was part of the former Polytechnic School and was used for research and teaching. It still has the original lecture theater and chemistry lab space with original pieces of equipment including a set of reagents and other chemicals in bottles.

As usual the wonderful thing about visiting a museum like this in Lisbon is that you are very likely will be walking there on your own giving you plenty of time to submerge in the mystique of 19th century chemistry research.

(click on the images for full picture)