Do you have an example of a small closed society that started from something completely different, but achieved much more? We do!
Let us introduce you to Vista Alegre! Located in the north of Portugal and near the city of Aveiro, this is more than a porcelain factory and together we will see why!
How it all began.
It was founded in 1824 and was the first industrial entity dedicated to the production of porcelain in Portugal. The founder of this factory was named José Ferreira Pinto Basto. He was a respected figure in the Portuguese society of his time and also a very wise man, so he embraced the liberal ideas of the 19th century and became the "first example of free initiative" in Portugal.
First, in 1812, he acquired the farm Ermida, located near the town of Ílhavo, on the Aveiro River. Later, in 1816, José acquired at public auction the Vista Alegre chapel and the surrounding land, where he would later build the Vista Alegre factory.
Eight years later, in 1824, he submitted a request to King João VI "to establish a large factory of earthenware, porcelain, glassware and chemical processing for all his sons as equal partners on his farm called Vista-Alegre da Ermida."
Why is this revolutionary?
As we know, society at that time was not very advanced and usually there were unwritten or sometimes even rules for things like this. It was common for property or heirs to generally go to the firstborn of a family. Even the fact that José Ferreira Pinto Basto asked the king to make all his sons equal partners makes it clear that this man was very progressive for his time.
On July 1, 1824, King João VI granted José Ferreira Pinto Basto permission to build the Vista Alegre porcelain factory with a royal license. Five years later, Vista Alegre received the title of Royal Factory in recognition of its artistry and industrial success.
To understand the recognition that this factory enjoyed, we must look at the fact that a dinner service was made for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
They also began to collaborate with contemporary artists, so they had more delicate and rare porcelain pieces.
More than a factory
Remember we said at the beginning that it was not just a factory, but rather a small company? It is time to shed some light on this subject.
A few years after the factory was founded, the Vista Alegre Fire Department was established, the oldest private fire department in Portugal! It was equipped with animal-powered water pumps, carbon tetrachloride extinguishers, fire trucks and ambulances. Today, the Vista Alegre Fire Department, in collaboration with the Department of Hygiene and Safety of the region, continues to provide assistance in emergencies and also plays an important role in prevention and monitoring.
There is also a museum on the grounds of the factory called "The Vista Alegre Museum," which opened in 1964. It houses a collection of pieces that testify to the company's long and rich history. In the late 1980s, Vista Alegre pieces were featured in international exhibitions, including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and Milan's Royal Palace. The company also opened the Vista Alegre Art and Development Centre (Centro de Arte Desenvolvimento da Empresa - CADE) in 1985 to encourage the creation of new pieces and decorations and to promote training in painting and sculpture.
Another interesting addition to Vista Alegre's cultural tradition is The Collectors Club, founded in 1985. This club, limited at the time to 2,500 members, reflects the importance of the brand in the art market.
Last but not least, there was a workers' theatre in the complex of buildings that bears the name Vista Alegre. It was built to provide a space for leisure and entertainment for the workers and residents of the social district. Nowadays, the Vista Alegre Theatre is used by an amateur theatre group made up of factory workers, and sometimes hosts other artistic groups in Aveiro.
Portugal's first football team was founded in Vista Alegre.
Yes, the title of this paragraph is not misleading, because the Pinto Basto family played a decisive role in the introduction of football in Portugal. In fact, Guilherme, Eduardo and Frederico Pinto Basto, the great-grandchildren of the founder of Vista Alegre, brought this sport to the country. Frederico Pinto Basto brought the first football to Portugal in 1886 and organised the first match in October of the same year, on January 22, 1889. In addition, Guilherme Pinto Basto organised the first international football match, in which an English and a Portuguese team competed at Campo Pequeno!
But besides football, Vista Alegre Factory promotes all sports, although football has undoubtedly received the most attention. Vista Alegre's first football team was presented to the public in August 1915 to celebrate the opening of the football field, which also included an office for the Vista Alegre Sporting Club and recreational items that could be loaned to members!
This story makes us rethink some things about our workspace. It makes us understand that a workplace should not be just a place where you spend 8 hours and then leave. Vista Alegre is a great example of how a workplace can be more than just a workspace. It hosted so many cultural and sporting events and yet was one of the best porcelain factories of its time! So let us consider if our workplace offers even half of the benefits and extras that this factory offered in the last century!
Written by Foteini Skiza.