Bairro do Sobreiro

A record of its existence

Built in the late 1970s, Bairro do Sobreiro changed the lives of hundreds of families looking for a new home. Located in the council of Maia, its initial structure consisted of 666 apartments, divided into 66 blocks of 4 floors, and 4 towers oriented in the center of the hood. Over the years, the few interventions by the city council, contributed to a substantial degradation of its houses, and of the entire surrounding space. During the 1990s, it was particularly weakened by the drug trade, irreversibly affecting a large number of families, while the spread of narcotics took its course. As Maia continued to evolve, the neighborhood remained a stagnant and abandoned place. Other neighborhoods in the country followed similar contours, concluding that the bet on large housing agglomerates was not the most consensual. Regarding to this issue, the city council proceeded with a phased process of demolitions that affected 19 blocks, significantly reducing their occupancy radius. In 2007, an acquisition contract (by a Spanish group) would speed up the demolition process, but the crisis ended up dictating its cancellation, and the matter returned to the hands of the city council. During the impasse, a new urban redevelopment plan emerged, supported by community funds, which ended up reviving an almost extinct neighborhood. The project was not limited only to the renovation of the habitations, it also created a new structure of nearby places such as, new streets, community nature projects, gardens and cycle paths that provide a modern and functional environment. The Community Centre, which played a fundamental role, will also have a new building to continue its cultural and intervention programmes. This renovation brings a new lease of life to its residents, who for decades felt ignored by its council. Currently, the Sobreiro breathes a completely renewed image, which finally puts it in line of development with the rest of the city. Despite everything, it is a place with its complexities, and there are problems that are not found in the physical structures, but that remain rooted in the inconsequential behaviors and habits of some. It remains to be seen whether this effort will be properly appreciated and taken care of by all its citizens.

My interest in documenting the neighborhood through photography took place gradually. Above all, I wanted to photograph its old state, which represented a nostalgic vestige of my childhood. Later, when the interventions began, I took the opportunity and continued to accumulate hundreds of photos. The result is a record of fragments dating back to mid-2010. I hope this work will help to demystify the people who live here, which are not all cut from the same cloth, because if everyone can think for themselves, they can also build their own world and their ideologies. This work is also a way of thanking everyone who participated, and a glimpse into my own journey through the mythical Bairro do Sobreiro.