Contemporary Portuguese architecture offers real examples of excellence and Lisbon is no exception, welcoming several internationally renowned projects. In this tour, some of the capital’s most notable buildings are opened especially for you, allowing you to admire the fascinating architectural creativity of the city both from afar and in every detail. You will explore Lisbon’s historic neighborhoods– where contemporary thinking drives urban redevelopment – and its blossoming post-industrial areas where diverse buildings are set amid differing urban contexts. Architecture is our key to reading between the urban lines and uncovering the hidden, magical aspects of this very original city.
Get introduced to Lisbon’s urban landscape from the city’s most famous vantage points with spectacular views over the Tagus river and the city’s ancient districts. From São Pedro de Alcântara, on the Miradouro de Nª Sª do Monte, you will get an original perspective of the history and development of the capital. Later you will visit Praça do Comércio – one of the greatest squares in the city opened to the large estuary of the Tagus river – and the Baixa, constructed after the 1755 earthquake and a remarkable example of urban planning on a grand scale in the name of 18th century Enlightenement ideals.
From here, you head up to the Chiado, where the famous Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira provided a master class in urban regeneration and the sustenance of a potent historical heritage with his clever reconstruction of an area devastated by fire in 1988. Here we also find the Museu do Chiado, enlarged and remodeled by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, and the former São Julião Church. Built in 1810 and remodeled by architects Gonçalo Byrne and João Pedro Falcão de Campos in 2012, it has since then been open to the public as a cultural venue. The day ends with a drink at the rooftop bar at Hotel do Chiado, another project by Siza Vieira, offering one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon and the river.
The morning is dedicated to the Parque das Nações – what used to be a decaying industrial area next to the river Tagus is, since the 1998 Expo, a 300 hectare renewed urban landscape. Now revamped and redeveloped, the area is home to important architectural works, including the Oriente Station by Santiago Calatrava, Siza Vieira’s Portuguese Pavilion and Peter Chermayeff’s Oceanarium, dubbed as the new icons of a boosting capital. The Expo area is also known for its urban planning, with modern homes, offices, parks and public works of art. Among these, Trancão Park is a fine example of environmental regeneration through landscape architecture. A change of pace comes with a walk through the lesser-known eastern side of Lisbon, where many decades of industrial history still prevail and its un-restored buildings tell their own, characteristic tales. The route then takes you through the heritage of the city’s industrial past, where warehouses are being turned into art galleries and numerous other creative spaces are blossoming into new life.
We end the day at Carrilho da Graça’s new Escola Superior de Música, a project with an acoustic agenda that brilliantly entices a dialogue between interior and exterior, isolation and openness.
Today we head down to the river again, this time to visit the architecturally rich area of Belém, famous for its 16th Century buildings in the Manueline style and classified as a World Heritage Site. Here, nearby the ancient Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Torre de Belém, the Cultural Centre of Belém – a museum which houses the largest collection of contemporary art in the country, a center for exhibitions and concerts – was built in the 1990s by Vittorio Gregotti and Manuel Salgado, whose architecture somehow manages to mix modern rationalism with a harmonious dialogue between the vibrant center and the historic surroundings within which it is located. With its characteristic pilotis, the recently built Museu dos Coches (Carriages Museum) by Brazilian Pritzker-prize architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha, is another highlight of the area. Opened in 2015, the building won the CICA Prize of International Committee of Architecture Critics.
Not far from here , is the Fundação Champalimaud, or Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, a state-of-the-art project by architect Charles Corrêa that was defined as “architecture as sculpture” and responds to the need of creating a flourishing atmosphere for the research in biomedicine undertaken at the Foundation.
The quality of poetically attuned architecture is also found in the work of Gonçalo Byrne, the architect behind the extraordinary Maritime Control Tower on the mouth of the Tagus, where the river meets the Ocean. This building, just as João Luís Carrilho da Graça’s Centro de Documentação da Presidência da República (one of the city’s best-kept architectural secrets) are not open to the public. We will make special arrangements to make a visit possible.
After seeing some of the cities’ most celebrated architectural projects, it’s time to get to know some of Lisbon’s centers of creativity: book shops, design shops, art galleries and warehouses where creative studios flourish amid spaces dedicated to leisure and the vibrant day and night life of the city.
Our last day brings us to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The first large-scale modernist construction in Portugal, this is one of the very best, defining examples of 20th-century Portuguese architecture. Built in the 1960’s, it presents an outstanding combination of space and utility as planned by architects Rui Atouguia, Pedro Cid and Alberto Pessoa. Set in a superb garden, and housing a museum with a magnificent collection of decorative arts as well as a modern art exhibition center, Gulbenkian provides a fitting finish to our journey through the fascinating landscape of contemporary Portuguese architecture. Our special visit to the interiors of the building will reveal how the garden and the building were conceived as one, especially from the Art Library or the Concert Hall (Grande Auditório), where a new dimension of the garden emerges.
Our last stop is the notable Chancellor’s building of the Universidade Nova, a project by the tandem of architects Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus, which juxtaposes past and present in a singular way. The new building, in the area of Campolide, is an imposing, yet light, large-scale project, with grand steps that lead to a public square at the feet of the former Jesuit school in the background. Its striking façade clad in white stone, with an abstract pattern of fenestration that conceals the many levels of the building, is just one of the attractions of this outstanding project.
Inside Lisbon’s art scene
For a behind-the-scenes, real feel of Lisbon’s blooming contemporary art panorama we can provide personalized visits to galleries and encounters with curators, artists and the leading figures of Lisbon’s thriving contemporary art world.
If you wish to tailor this tour, you might be interested in knowing all the experiences and travel ideas we have tought of for you: please have a look and let us know if you have any different ideas in mind!