The architect of the sea

Teresa Almeida, a specialist in the areas of urban planning and land management, is the coordinator of the Sea 2020 Programme, geared to supporting sustainable and innovative fisheries and aquaculture projects

Teresa Almeida is fully familiar with the dynamics of the Tagus. The coordinator of the Sea 2020 Programme has an office in the Santo Amaro docks, located on the bank of the river with a view of the 25th April Bridge in the right-hand corner of her window. “The view is inspirational, I just had to do it. We were working near the airport when I started this programme and I wasn´t happy with that”. From the veranda of the old Edifício dos Pilotos building – owned by the Port of Lisbon, which leased the property – the administrator watches the boats go by: “I know them all, the cruise liners, leisure boats, little sail boats, the HIPPOtrip and even the submarine from the Alfeite Dock”.

Leading a team of 17 people, in charge of applications for European funds, Teresa Almeida, 65 years of age, is a qualified architect with vast local authority experience. She organised the Lisbon Europe 2020 Programme - which transformed the Portuguese capital into the city we know today - at the invitation of António Costa. At the time, in 2007, she attended the inauguration of the new mayor of Lisbon as the Civil Governor of Setubal. “Someone said to me, get ready, because you´re going to be called upon”.

A specialist in urban development, she now talks about fisheries with the same enthusiasm she showed when talking about the political battles she fought in the past. “The sector is booming and the concept of fisheries is highly valued”, she declares. The Sea 2020 Programme includes community support exclusively for sustainable and innovative fisheries and aquaculture projects. “We have a problem with an ageing fleet but we can´t renew it. Onboard refurbishment , energy efficiency, better sanitary conditions, facilities for life on board, yes, but I can´t invest in new vessels.”

When she finished her architecture course, in the wake of the revolution of 25 April, Teresa Almeida had to leave Lisbon in order to find work in her field of training. “We were young architects wanting to work in architecture, but there were no jobs. We had to leave our comfort zone. I went to Castro Verde to do what I liked doing”, she recalls. Based in a small local office covering an area bigger than the Algarve, the team developed dozens of projects. “We equipped all the towns with nursing homes, fountains, social housing, kindergartens, etc. We were used – in the good sense - to produce just what the country needed.”

This was the only time she worked in “traditional architecture”. In 1977 she joined the Setubal City Council (CMS), where she would stay for 21 years: she began as a junior technician, worked as director of urban planning, Councillor for Housing and rose to Civil Governor. “At that time women were not really accepted in the world of licensing and construction. The most important sectors at the council were manned by men”, she recalls. She worked on social neighborhood projects and implemented the Special Resettlement Plan (PER), designed to eradicate slums in Setubal and to replace them with social housing. “I came to Lisbon to discuss the Development Fund with everyone. We had a thousand slum dwellings in Setubal, and we needed to find a home for everyone.”

She was a candidate for President of Setubal City Council – but lost to Maria das Dores Meira – and it was in the capital that she conducted decisive work in the rehabilitation of the city. “When I arrived at Lisbon City Council (CML) in 2007, Lisbon was a depressed city, and the surrounding parishes were far more attractive for both individuals and companies. This is no longer the case: the city is attractive, modern, and has good energy and technology resources, as well as the ability to implement them, has attracted businesses, and has become more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, and greener. We now have a Green Capital, which was unthinkable at the time when not even the problems related to sanitation had been dealt with.”

Just as she brought about changes in the area of mobility and housing in Lisbon – within the scope of the Lisbon Europe 2020 Mission, the programme headed by the coordinator also works on the promotion of energy solutions associated with fisheries and aquaculture. The mission is to implement support measures within the framework of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. “We are already promoting applications for vessels driven exclusively by solar energy.”