Architecture of Lisbon. Pombaline Center and Praça do Comércio. The Baixa Pombalina or Pombaline city center is the celebrated result of the reconstruction process carried out after what was one of the most violent earthquakes in Europe (1755). Eternally associated with the political will of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, better known by his title Marquis of Pombal, the center derived from a very rigorous and well-documented planning process technically overseen by the Portuguese military engineering specialists (under Manuel da Maia). A paradigm of urban planning of the Enlightenment period—both in terms of method and realization – the Baixa is an internationally unique case on account of, among other things, its previously defined architectural typology and the proportional graduation of the grid it superimposed upon the pre-existing city. It combines blocks and streets of differing dimensions, creating a strongly hierarchized urban grid negotiating the difficult topographical restrictions imposed by the two adjacent slopes, and emphasizing the three main streets perpendicular to the river (Rua Augusta, Rua do Ouro and Rua da Prata). The three streets and, on a lower level, their narrower axial duplications, also resolve the connection of the Baixa “platform” to the two main squares in the city: Rossio square to the north and Praça do Comércio that opens onto the river to the south. The latter square constitutes the planned and ideologically charged transfiguration of the former Terreiro do Paço, where the palace of the king is reduced to the symbolic (and residual) presence of his equestrian statue.
Belém and Expansion Westwards Along the River
A strong presence in the urban imagery as the location of the Hieronymites Monastery and the Tower of Belém (both World Heritage Monuments), Belém marks a trend begun in the sixteenth century, and continued through the centuries, for “spontaneous” urban growth along the riverbank without giving rise to structured articulation with the consolidated city center.
The Torre de Belém (Tower of Belém, Francisco de Arruda, 1515), one of Lisbon’s main tourist attractions and a paradigm of the Manueline style, is an example of military architecture in transition from the over-ornamented keep tower to the platform prefiguring the bulwark. It recalls some Italian designs such as those by Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Together with the Tower of São Sebastião da Caparica (1488-1494) on the other bank of the river, it completed the defense system for the Tagus estuary.
Continuing along the coast westwards, along the railway line to Estoril and Cascais, one can witness architectural styles reflecting both towns’ status as prestigious summer resorts during almost the whole of the twentieth century. The town of Sintra (a World Heritage Landscape) marks the end of the journey—an exceptional landscape and architectural scenario (Lord Byron’s “glorious Eden”) and the preferred summer residence (along with Évora in the sixteenth century) of the Portuguese court from the fifteenth century to the end of the monarchy in 1910.
The City of the Avenidas Novas
In the nineteenth century Lisbon underwent the normal transformations of an industrialized European capital. In an initial phase, the result of the economic and political climate (Napoleonic invasions, liberal revolution, civil war), the bourgeois and romantic city limited itself to instances of urban “improvement” and “embellishment.” Agreeable green spaces emerged in peripheral or interstitial zones left undeveloped by the Pombaline urbanistic revolution. Gardens and belvederes became the pretext for building residences of high standing. Of these spaces, the garden and belvedere of São Pedro de Alcântara, on the eastern edge of Bairro Alto, and the Príncipe Real garden are the most interesting examples. The “industrial city” was born in 1879 with the laying out of Avenida da Liberdade northwards from Rossio square and away from the river. This marked the beginning of Lisbon’s true conquest of its hinterland and was followed up by the plan for the Avenidas Novas (New Avenues, 1888) by Frederico Ressano Garcia, who had graduated in 1869 from the École des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris at the height of the Haussmannian renewal.
The new road matrix, on the scale of urban facilities and infrastructures provided by industrialization, followed the model of the Parisian boulevard. It imposed the extensive Rossio-Campo Grande axis on the territory, which was interrupted by an intermediate roundabout where the axis makes an inflection to the northeast—the roundabout that was later to be given the name Praça do Marquês de Pombal. This generating axis—which took into account topographic conditions and some extant urban structures—determined an orthogonal grid that was to be filled by bourgeois apartment buildings interspersed with the palatial residences of the new social elites. The medieval core and its sixteenth-century extensions (Bairro Alto), the Baixa Pombalina and the Avenidas Novas, and the privileged expansions to the west (Belém) and industrial zones in the east – are the descriptors of reference for the city up to the 1950s. Into this, a number of works paradigmatic of the Modern Movement in Portugal were implanted at a time when the movement had already entered a selfquestioning phase: the Igreja do Sagrado Coração de Jesus (Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Nuno Portas and Nuno Teotónio Pereira, 1961-1970), adeptly grafted into the grid of the Avenidas Novas, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Museum (Alberto Pessoa, Pedro Cid and Ruy d’Athouguia, 1961-1969), on the site of an old and prestigious urban property located on the immediate periphery of the Ressano Garcia Plan.
The Church of the Sacred Heart is noteworthy for the subtlety with which a religious complex program (church, residence and parish center) adapts to the variations in land elevation and the surrounding urban fabric, proposing a solution of interpenetration of public space and built space hitherto unseen in Portugal. Foundation complex levels of sophistication and refinement of design and construction that are rarely reached in contemporary Portuguese architecture. The Gulbenkian Foundation, representative of the Modernist monumental cultural program, was the result of a competition launched in 1959 for which Leslie Martin was a member of the jury. The apparent simplicity of the winning proposal, based on horizontal planes that articulate three perpendicular modules (headquarters, auditoriums/concert halls and museum/library) dialogues in exemplary fashion with the noteworthy landscaping project for the foundation’s park (António Viana Barreto and Gonçalo Ribeiro Telles, 1961).
Contemporaneity: Going East
The Alvalade (Faria da Costa, 1948) and Olivais Sul and Olivais Norte (Lisbon City Council, 1955 and 1959) neighborhoods represent the occupation of Lisbon’s hinterland and its eastward expansion from the late 1940s through the 1960s. Almost half a century later, the Expo ’98 / Parque das Nações operation brought this process to a close on the riverfront, in line with the late twentieth-century leitmotif of urban regeneration and redevelopment.
The first phase in the Olivais plan (Olivais Sul) marked the official recognition in Portugal of the urban planning principles in the Athens Charter, after decades of ideological and political resistance. The social housing project (40 hectares, 8,500 residents) allowed a number of young designers to test innovative typological solutions in the context of collective residential architecture. Phase two (Olivais Norte) represented an intervention on a different scale (180 hectares, 40,000 inhabitants) and within a different disciplinary context. It offered a unique opportunity for intensive study and debate among the design teams, reflecting the influence of British new towns and Catalan and Italian experiments (INA-CASA), among others. The degree of design freedom achieved, within the boundaries inherent in social housing programs, resulted in a laboratory for solutions of high quality that paid attention to the routine life in the interiors, the transition spaces and the ample exterior spaces that complemented the housing.
In a diverse political, economic and urban context—the establishment of democracy (1974), joining the European Community (1985) and the restructuring of the road and transport networks in the Lisbon metropolitan area—the eastern zone of the city experienced a new large-scale intervention. Occupied at the time by obsolete industrial installations already being deactivated, the zone was transformed into a new city for the purpose of hosting the International Exposition in 1998. High quality collective housing, public parks and recreational, cultural, hospital and educational facilities recycled old industrial land, which is now dotted with examples of monumental designs by renowned architects: Siza Vieira, Santiago Calatrava, João Luís Carrilho da Graça and Manuel Graça Dias.
Álvaro Siza Vieira is perhaps Portugal’s best-known contemporary architect, and was responsible for minimalist landmark creations such as the Portugal Expo 98 Pavilion and the massive restoration project in the Chiado shopping district that followed a devastating fire in 1988. Lisbon’s hippest boutique hotel Bairro Alto Hotel has also set an architectural milestone for sheer gutsy innovation thanks to top design duo Diogo Rosa Lã and José Pedro Vieira. Another unusual modern edifice is the goldfish bowl restaurant Eleven, located above the Edward VII park, with its minimalist steel frame fronted by huge floor-to-ceiling windows. The building was designed by three up-and-coming local architects: João Correia, Cristina Santos e Silva and Ana Menezes Cardoso.Country:
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