In 1990 Fernanda Fragateiro presented, in Sala Sul of the Natural History Museum, her first solo show, of which there is nothing left but a photographic archive. In this exhibition, composed by a group of ephemeral sculptures, were enunciated the principles that would later become the fundamental assumptions of Fragateiro's work. Just like architecture, or perhaps the architectural principles, were manifested in the field of interest and action of Fragateiro, also text, as content, object or drawing, assumed a fundamental role in the conceptual process of her pieces, often acquiring a formal materialization. Accordingly, For us a book is a small building - expression by the British Architect Alison Smithson referenced in the title of this exhibition - finds a significant expression in Fernanda Fragateiro's body of work and may be presented as a synthesis of her artistic production; by establishing an analogy between the processes of conception of a book and of a building, the quote reinforces the protagonism of the field of architecture, while admitting a view of textual production as an important tool both in processes of reflection and of construction of objects.
In this sense, the exhibition takes as reference the writings of Alison and Peter Smithson in order to focus on the social housing complex Robin Hood Gardens, an emblematic project conceived by the British duo and of which recent demolition, condemned by architects, artists and critics, although having gone relatively unnoticed by the general public, represents the end of an important period of social reformation in England. Through the works presented in the exhibition, Fragateiro characterizes and redesigns the building, describing in a subliminal way the principles that structures the architecture project and that constitute a reaction to the premises of the post-war Modernism of Corbusier. Appealing to the materiality of the pieces, Fragateiro suggests a commentary to the ideas that gave origin to Brutalism, as well as to the decay of the style resultant of a simplification of the concept as found, which promoted the prosaic and non artificial to a question of materiality, therefore reducing ethical contemplations to aesthetic solutions.
Focusing on themes of precarious housing, the show is, somehow, revisiting the exhibition from 1990, in the way in which the works occupy, organize and merge with the space, as well as in the discussions it addresses. Despite making use of the particular case of Robin Hood Gardens as a means to approach questions of the failure of socialist utopias, Fragateiro carefully introduces elements that explore these themes in the Portuguese context. A working helmet from Expo98 under a replica of a protection grid of Robin Hood Gardens establishes an analogy between the process of demolition of this complex and of the informal neighborhoods that have been demolished to make space for an area of peripheral urbanism destined for the middle class. Similarly, in the work As found (2018), the use of remains from Bairro 6 de Maio in Amadora establishes a confrontation between the two processes of demolition which, being of opposite nature, are happening at the same time and during the period of the exhibition. Despite the symbological meaning of the destruction of a social complex of architectural authorship, the degree of aggressiveness in the devastation of the informal architectures of "6 de Maio", which has been subject to a similar negligence by the general public opinion, is symptomatic of a social and political indifference for human rights and dignity.