Mariana Calaça BaptistaArchitect, Urban Planner and Consultant
Mariana Calaça Baptista is an architect, urban planner and consultant (in the implementation of profitable projects in the areas of Heritage, Tourism, Communication and Culture). She is also a regular columnist for the digital newspaper Moondo, local anchor for ADBD Communicare and secretary of the Board of Centro de Portugal Film Commission.
She has a portfolio of over 30 clients to date, and for the past six years has dedicated her time to leveraging cultural and creative projects based on multidisciplinary concepts.
With a degree in Architecture by Lusíada University, specialized in Architectural and Urban Heritage by ETSAM of the Polytechnic University of Madrid, specialized in Entrepreneurship in Cultural and Landscape Tourism by ISCTE and master in Cultural Management by the School of Arts and Design, Mariana Calaça Baptista is one of the special guests at Connecting Stories by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS.
1. You have a very diverse professional background. Can you tell us a bit about your journey and your professional experience?
My journey began with my training in the creative industries, in architecture, in the component of architectural and urban heritage protection. After my training in Portugal, I did a Master's in Madrid, which allowed me to join the DGEMN (Direcção Geral de Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais). There, I had the opportunity to work on the inventories of Baixa Pombalina, Chiado, Rua de São Paulo, Baixa de Coimbra (Rua Sofia), among other urban groups and heritage buildings such as castles, palaces and farms all over the country. It was a professional beginning that gave me the taste for rigor and for our history that, told through the eyes of a heritage researcher, allowed me to know the richest side of our material heritage, in which matter tells stories.
In 2007, DGEMN closed its doors and the State merged several offices, namely with the then IGESPAR and IHRU. The precarious people were asked to leave and I, being one of them, saw my specialty as a diagnosis of constructive pathology in urban complexes reduced to the Risk Letter Room, whose professional output outside that institution was only limited to areas that were not to my liking, such as insurance company appraisals or the then initial energy audits. Without the heritage component and without much vocation for the more rigid side of construction, I still tried to work in a project office, but without being more junior and working 14 hours a day in front of a computer exercising a drawing program, I felt no special appetite that would make me stay in the area almost for free. At that moment, the question of sustainability spoke louder and I decided to try the commercial area.
In my travels to the West, and after a spontaneous application to an owner of a Residential Tourism in Óbidos, not even I imagined that in one of the moments of greatest professional stress while coordinating an office with several colleagues in the area, and after being identified twice in only two weeks for speeding, the issue was no longer sustainability but quality. Remarkably, when this event happened, the owner of Turismo de Habitação called me and asked me if I would be interested in leaving Lisbon. The answer was very quick and in three days I changed my life. Here the question of quality spoke louder.
Already in the West, I had the opportunity to learn from Colonel Fernando Sarmento what I needed to learn at the beginning of my career as manager of an accommodation unit, Casa d'Óbidos, and it was there that I stayed for five years during the period of the last IMF bailout.
Not hesitating, and because I felt it was necessary to train in the area, I attended ISCTE's Seminar of Entrepreneurship in Cultural and Landscape Tourism, whose focus would be to create a business idea in the tourism area. The challenge was very timely and, together with a team of creatives from ESAD led by the mentor from Associação Destino Caldas, Nicola Henriques, we ended up winning first prize in the course competition, whose jury was Turismo de Portugal, Iapmei, CCB and Portugal Ventures.
Internally, and after talking to thousands of people, from all over the world, during the five years I stayed at Casa d'Óbidos, I decided to leave and create my own project www.marianacalacabaptista.pt where I committed myself to position myself in the areas I am passionate about and to be able to work according to my codes of ethics and life: respecting others in their time and value and working on passion projects, with really good people and focusing on opportunities that value the human heritage of each one of us.
I would later get a master's degree from ESAD in Cultural Management. Thus, since 2015 I have been working as a consultant and service provider in Heritage, Communication, Tourism and Culture, which are areas that go hand in hand. I have "opened" hotels, restaurants, local accommodation houses, carpentries, etc. I am passionate about making projects financially viable, even though sometimes utopia can get the better of me. Still the partnership with entities that honor me by betting on me, including the Association Destino Caldas, the Association Centro Portugal Film Commission, Build The City, ADBD Communicare, Cenas de Teatro and the Municipalities, with whom I am proud to dream together for a better world. In this journey I am also the Ambassador of Mais Negócio in the West, because I feel it is important to help open doors and meet new partnerships in the region where I live.
And finally, because for me working in team is fundamental, and the 1x1 relationship is the basis of a good community living, with the participation in CREATOUR in partnership with the Association Destino Caldas and the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra, we developed a project in Caldas da Rainha, which meets the best practices of Creative Tourism, and we have been developing initiatives to expand this pilot and our positioning a little throughout the country. As an author, I regularly write for some national and international media in which I give my opinion about the way I see Tourism and Culture in my country.
2. Consulting seems to be a very important part of your life. What made you choose this area, given your background?
Working with a focus on the sustainability of projects has always been fundamental for me, from the moment I was still working in architecture when I didn't have enough money to pay the rent.
There are lessons that, when learned once in a lifetime, are enough forever, knowing that if I want to realize differentiated projects, I have to appear with the key in hand with my client, so that its operationalization is unavoidable.
I always try to find creative and viable solutions to challenging issues based on entrepreneurship and a "hands on" attitude. I believe that my multidisciplinary experience gives me a concerted vision of the sector, with special focus on creativity, culture and tourism, having for this the tool of communication to leverage the results of these initiatives.
3. How do you reconcile this role with so many other responsibilities?
I have the advantage of being able to dedicate myself entirely to my work and to do it with people I admire. I do it for pleasure and, of course, there is always time for projects that open new windows of opportunity and in which we know our contribution is important.
4. You mention in your web page that you have "a strong focus on entrepreneurship in general". How do you see entrepreneurship nowadays and more specifically in Portugal?
There has been a boom in entrepreneurship, with the emergence of startup factories after the great crisis of 2012, in a series of new ideas and new products full of passionate narratives and enhanced self-esteem a little all over our country, which I am very proud of. These training opportunities leveraged many business ideas, some successful ones specifically aided by the advent of tourism by the end of 2019.
Then there is the constraint of coronavirus, which has brought a host of new opportunities and challenges, which we will have to get used to, because I am of the opinion that the world has changed forever, and in that way we will all have to learn to walk in this world in which we are still learning how to survive, but in which the wisest is the one who adapts best.
Low-density territories are for me the future, and it is on them that I bet part of my projects. I believe that the urban exodus will be greater and greater and the search for a slower life will be a trend. Today, every computer is a powerhouse city in our hands, and with the globalization of digital, it will be increasingly possible to solve everything bureaucratic through platforms.
The boost that Amazon has given in the world of logistics has completely decentralized the act of buying products and nowadays there are no isolated places. We are left with what is gregarious and physical, and what our physical bodies require of us, such as social life, entertainment and culture, which we will still have to reinvent in a rewarding way in this new context new to us all. I have high hopes that the metaverse will not win this race and that we will continue to solve this social and gregarious need, around a table with friends.
5. As an architect and urban planner, what do you consider to be the main benefits of Smart Cities?
The sustainability of cities, with the support of urban management tools, seems to be the great benefit of Smart Cities. So, the three values of sustainability (economic, social and environmental) are a balance towards which the world must converge, because demographic balances will change the social culture as we know it, with the phenomena of migration. And in this digital transition, the world in 10 years will be dramatically different from today.
I think that the tools of city management and dialogue, which are increasingly intercultural, will play a crucial role in urban democracy and in balancing an increasingly anonymous society. Democracies are a system that is increasingly falling into disuse, with the advance of technology and AI moving forcefully into our daily lives, implying a governance increasingly anchored in data. We are forcibly moving towards "democratic enlightenment".
The rigor of information and the truth are concepts that are a necessity/obligation that scientific evolution has imprinted on society and that bring us closer to peace and tolerance. They cross society from medical nanotechnology, to agriculture, transport, to governance itself, and thus are increasingly essential to be also a reality in the decision making of the management of the territories.
My city changed in the middle of a pandemic. From one week to the next, the seasonal migrations of temporary workers from the agricultural sector changed the social panorama and, to this day, these migrants remain here without knowing what they live on and how they live, taking over the urban center that has been abandoned for several years by its owners.
Politicized mayors lost the elections, when everything indicated continuity, leaving strategic decisions in the hands of a new independent executive, whose good will has not yet managed to master the issues on the agenda due to the size of the dossiers.
We are talking about challenges such as the large displacement of communities to Europe, global warming, the advent of Artificial Intelligence, digitalization versus digital illiteracy, and the aging of the European population with a huge demographic deficit. Societal challenges will be increasing in security, sanitation, traffic management, urban waste, education, etc. And for this it will be crucial that technology can perform tasks that fewer and fewer people are motivated to do. The labor force is scarce and it is necessary to channel it to tasks where the requirement for human discernment and the relationship with the environment imply more than logical and empathetic reasoning. For this we exist, human beings, whose reasoning allows for ethical decision-making based on data analysis.
6. How can Smart Cities improve the quality of life of the population?
The urban intelligence tools were designed to accurately ascertain the management of large metropolises, without which the measurements and evaluation parameters (social, environmental and economic), those of sustainability, therefore, would be unthinkable to have the quality of life to which we have become accustomed, with the rigor and assertiveness of the necessary measures. Being able to parameterize the machine that is behind the city management is something absolutely fundamental and without which no city can live with the challenges of the current pressure and that allows mayors to make good decisions at the lowest cost to taxpayers.
7. What do you think the cities of the future will look like based on your professional experience?
We are moving toward a greener and more socially controlled world. We will inevitably lose some privileges and the world, in the next decade, faces absolutely crucial challenges that will determine the quality of life of future generations. I believe that we will overcome them, but I don't know if in the right time and with the current expectation of COP26. The world is very unbalanced and certainly the most industrialized countries will have to do the "honors of the house" for there to be a certain social peace. The increasing migrations and the pressure on Europe is one of the greatest challenges of our time. I believe that soon there will be a new social paradigm that will drastically change our current societies, with new community dynamics, gentrification of cities and globalization everywhere. It takes courage to regulate the market and find solutions.
8. You have been recognized with the "Play West" award. What does this recognition mean to you?
It was a great joy to have been able to enjoy this experience. I believe that these are opportunities that open doors and motivate us in an important way towards what we truly want to be in the future. It gives us strength, essentially, even when they are unfeasible projects to implement because of the cost/opportunity. I have also learned that sometimes you have to have the courage not to invest in projects that are too advanced in their time, for which the market is not ready.
9. What plans do you have in mind for the future?
Working remotely and located in my city, Caldas da Rainha, for territories with societal challenges, that allow me to learn more. To adapt to new ways of understanding and respecting the world and allow them to help me be a better person every day. I also enjoy unlocking initiatives that can, based on creativity, create new opportunities, namely through Creative Tourism, which works against hyper industrialization.
10. Being PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS a company that develops and manufactures multimedia kiosks, self-service equipment, digital billboards, interactive tables and other digital solutions for all kind of industries and at international level, how can this equipment and technology in general contribute to the development of Smart and Sustainable Cities?
Always that, in an intuitive way, they can be platforms of mediation with the citizens and that, in a didactic way, they can inform and entertain. Smart and Sustainable cities will be livelier and more informed without a doubt. Certainly, digital will definitely conquer the public space and it will be normal to have animated billboards with interactive images in a massive way.
Brands will push this acceleration and advertising will be more agile and assertive, creating a notion of a Disneyfied or animated city. It's up to us to decide. The image of "Times Square" could be a reference for the world.
I also believe that the digital media sector will create better communication at the level of public services, education, public health, medical services and that there will be a huge benefit in that.
Connecting Stories is an editorial space led by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS which consists of conducting exclusive interviews, directed at influential personalities who work in different sectors of activity.
The project, conceived by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS, includes the publication of success stories, through small interviews with influencers who want to share details about their projects, opinions, plans for the future, among other subjects.
The idea is to connect stories, share knowledge, develop networking and generate content that can provide new visions, opportunities and ideas.
Founded in 2000, PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS is a world renowned Portuguese IT company, manufacturer of indoor and outdoor multimedia kiosks, self-service equipment, digital billboards, interactive tables and other digital solutions, for all types of sectors and industries. To know more about our story, click here.