Parallels in the city 3 – Saito and imperfection in Alegria Street

We walk along three parallel streets in the city of Porto: Bonjardim, Santa Catarina and Rua da Alegria. All three cut through the city centre, ending up close to Marquês do Pombal. “Parallel in the city” is a wandering, necessarily attentive and emotional look at the urban space. Parallel 3 – Alegria Street

I end the journey of the Parallel Streets in the City in Alegria Street, Porto. Wandering is intrinsically emotional. For that reason, there is no justification for the three parallels, as three parallels. Except for the fact that it has been, for a period, a choice repeatedly made, in random walks in the city. I particularly like Rua da Alegria because it is, of the three, the one that, aesthetically, I always disliked. Nor have I ever understood the reason for its name, in a street so dirty with pollution and with such sad dwellings. It is necessary to call upon Saito’s aesthetics of imperfection (2017) and other aesthetic or philosophical currents to understand why we are attracted to a certain decadence. Or not. Perhaps it is not necessary to intellectualise it. Just let yourself be guided. Until, at last, understanding that the only paradox of Alegria [Joy] Street is not just in the name. What a tremendously discordant street! There is Guilhermina Suggia’s house (an example of Art Nouveau in Porto), as well as buildings with tiny balconies and dirty shutters. The whole street is criss-crossed by the hustle and bustle of the city, staring at graffiti or a bucolic garden, which adorns the junction with the Rampa from the Escola Normal. There are, in the street, housing, schools, many automobile workshops, even the rolling house and an almost invisible cultural life. At a slick and dark gate, I once watched a delightful play, with the audience seated on the floor. Artistic experiences leapt from number to number: the Drawing Club, a ceramics workshop, many chaotic ateliers of activity. And, also, nightclubs, neighbourhood grocery stores, the dizzying building of the Bricklayers’ Cooperative. In addition to the open-air building site in the Baixa (historic centre) area, but this is not a singularity of the street. It is at once transgressive, welcoming, ugly, old and contemporary.

Having collected the first wandering impressions, it is worth an incursion through Yuriko Saito. We saw, especially in parallel streets 1 and 2 (Bonjardim and Santa Catarina) a city that moulds itself to perfectionism, side by side with the ruin of the pre-existent. The scaffolding displayed in downtown Porto allows us to see these “cosy”, “clean”, cosmopolitan, uncharacteristic examples. Like a body perfected by the gym and beauty salons or the calibrated fruit of the supermarkets. It is Saito’s image: “the aesthetics of perfection and imperfection governs various aspects of our daily lives, from green lawns and perfectly shaped fruits and vegetables to fast fashion and the sculpted human body” (2017). What the author proposes (inspired by Japanese aesthetics) is precisely an acceptance of ruin as an emancipating and critical condition for the analysis of everyday life. Idealised perfection inhibits the critical sense, whereas imperfection generates an acceptance of the harmony of the imperfect and, simultaneously, a search for quality. In this tour along the Alegria Street, let us be carried away by an amoralism, which does not create preconceptions, and by a critical sense that not only seeks the beautiful, but also investigates, in words and looks, the enigmatic, playful, secular and polymorphic body-city.

Text and imagens: Teresa Lima

Published on 28-03-2022


Saito, Y. (2017). The role of imperfection in everyday aesthetics. Contemporary Aesthethics, 15.



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