Can boxing facilitate community? Can it encourage new bodily movements that change our daily perspectives of space? Launched as part of the 2019 Lisbon Architecture Triennale in a housing complex in Portugal, the installation Boxing Boxes / Caixas de Boxe designed by architects Daniel De León Languré and Carlos Ortega Arámburo will remain in place beyond the triennale and its concept has been transformed into a space for researching boxing culture and art. The questions asked and the explorations are sure to bring a lot of new starting points for thinking bodies in space. Here is a peek at the project’s origins.
Illustration by Daniel De León Languré, architect
Despite the minimal material requirements for boxing, or perhaps because of it, the practice of boxing implies great self-control and physical and mental training, factors that help solve society’s needs for violence and offer an alternative to the lethargic and individualistic infrastructure of our current and future cities.
Boxing Boxes / Caixas de Boxe is located between the shortage of equipment and the need for catalysts for social integration among immigrants in the Portugal Novo neighborhood. It strives to use boxing as a tool for the exploration of body movement, the contained release of impulses, the empowerment of vulnerable social groups, and the revaluation of leisure or “unproductive” activities.
Within the framework of the 2019 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, the installation showed a low visibility and stigmatization of a neighborhood ignored for thirty years despite its proximity to the center of Lisbon. It illustrated the need to restore dignity through architecture and political action.
The Portugal Novo housing complex was designed by the architect Manuel Vicente in the 1970s as part of the SAAL program (Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local) but it was never completed, leaving homes, common areas, basic education, and recreation facilities, among others, unfinished. Due to the irregularity of the settlement, a great number of vulnerable African, Indian, and Roma immigrants have come to occupy the neighborhood with the difficulty of communication and interaction that this entails.
The installation is a continuous steel tubular structure, placed in a sandbox, from which boxing equipment is hung. This installation is modulated according to the human body and exercise routines are suggested through an instruction manual. At the same time, it is abstract enough to generate the curiosity and inventiveness of children who can gradually become interested in sports and take advantage of the benefits of community life and health.
Just before the opening, both children and adults interacted with each other throughout the installation. Whether through the practice of boxing or play, the coexistence of children helps to root the community in their environment and to other members that compose it, regardless of the group to which they belong.
Through a collaboration with neighborhood associations, gyms, and local institutions, the design team worked with residents of Portugal Novo to define the project and its objectives. In this way, the logistics were present not only in the work prior to the inauguration but also in the neighborhood planning for the maintenance and the gradual transformation of the installation. In the end, what is desired is that actual and new generations learn and practice this form of organization in the future.
During the opening day of Boxing Boxes / Caixas de Boxe, neighbors, the design team, organizers, curators, and journalists were introduced and interacted with each other during a multicultural lunch. This was the culmination of 2 years of architectural research. Today the installation is used for public boxing workshops; what was intended to last a couple of weeks, with the support of the community, will remain at least for some years.
DATES: October 2019 (Production and opening) / LOCATION: Portugal Novo Neighborhood, at Wanda Ramos Street, Lisboa, Portugal / SURFACE AREA: 48 m2 / DESIGN CONCEPT: Daniel De León Languré, architect and Carlos Ortega Arámburo, architect / PRODUCTION TEAM: Daniel De León Languré, architect and Camila Ulloa Vásquez, architect / INSTALLATION PRODUCTION AND SETUP: EDA – Ensaios e Diálogos Associação & Gatomorto: Claraluz Keiser, Maddalena Pornaro, Sofía Costa Pinto. M2C – Metal Carvalho Conrado / COLLABORATORS: Araceli Espinosa, Mariana Pontón, Miguel Ángel Reyes Faccio, Susana Verónica Alfaro del Ángel / PARTNERS: Associação de Moradores de Portugal Novo, Equipo de Box Curtidores, Fundação Aga Khan Portugal, Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa / ILLUSTRATIONS: Daniel De León Languré, architect / PHOTOS: Fabio Cunha, Hugo David / TEXT: The project creators, edited by NESS