So the apartment I’m staying in has a view, which is nice. But the tail side of the coin is that having a view means you’re high up. Being high up means you have a long, long walk down a steep hill to get anywhere, but luckily it’s getting me in shape if nothing else. I went by the architecture office of Paulo David on Thursday. Paulo David is an architect born in Madeira that moved away to go to school in Lisbon but has since returned to his place of origin to practice. He was just featured in the most recent (or second most recent) issue of 2G magazine, which has great articles and pictures of much of his work on the island. An architect in the office named Hugo Dias was kind enough to show me around and explain all of the different projects they have completed as well as those currently on the boards. Hugo told me about the philosophies behind the work, which deals with working with the raw natural landscape of the island, at points giving views of the vast ocean, and other times closing in and gathering spaces for meditation and reflection. But even deeper in the work is a rooted mentality with the culture and history of the island itself, as Hugo explained to me the development of form from terracing of farm land, irrigation channels cut into the hillside, and the old stacking of basalt stone to signify boundaries. There is also a photographer named Thomas Joshua Cooper featured in the 2G publication that shoots landscapes near the ends of the earth. Islands, Antarctica, far away mountains, and so forth. I don’t know much about him yet, but as soon I get more frequent internet access I’m going to look more into him. Hugo told me he is currently stationed in London now, but travels most extensively for his job. There was also a revolution about 20 or 30 years ago that led to the island being pushed extensively for tourism. Many of the buildings here are only 20 or so years old as that was when the tourism bubble hit. It would be very hard to imagine the island in a different light now that I’ve seen it in its current condition.
It is borderline impossible to get around Madeira without a car, with buses between villages (cities) taking sometimes upwards of 2 hours given the steep terrain, not even taking into account wait times. So I had to break down and rent a car to get around. Luckily upstairs Andy told me about netrent.pt, which is a car company that rents out in Portugal on the cheap if you manage to book a day in advance on the internet. They are ridiculously inexpensive comparatively, though you are picked up in a shady van by some guy’s “colleague” when going to the office, and the clutch on my “Modus” is already hanging out by a thread without my American automatic shifting mind tearing it to bits. Only stalled out once today though, and by once I mean one length of time of about one minute on a tight steep curve on the west side of the island. A few truck drivers were yelling what I take to be encouragement, but if I was fluent in Portuguese it could well turn out to be something else. I went to visit one of the original docks in Ponta do Sol, where the water is deep enough to let large ships get close. It is built out of huge chunks of basalt and crafted directly into the jagged stones which it rests on, making it difficult to distinguish between earth and man-made work at points. The stone dock was built in the 1800’s, showing the recent explosion of population and technology to be more recent than historical. Regarding technology, I still can’t get over the contrast between rugged landscape and commercial enterprise. About 100 meters away from the dock at Ponta do Sol is a café with street parking and free Wi-Fi access. I haven’t traveled the length of the entire island yet, but am still amazed by the amount of development it has already, seemingly bursting at the seams with wealth and convenience.
I went by the Casa das Mudas as well to see the gem of Paulo David’s collection. It was a beautiful day luckily and I walked around the outside jotting notes for a while. They use the same proportion of stone as the Thermal Baths apparently, which is interesting. They are having an exhibition opening on Saturday, so I’m going to try and go back for that and will write more on the subject as soon as I get time.