First stop: Lisbon

First stop: Lisbon

The Journey will start with one week stay in Lisbon, my hometown. The Portuguese capital used to be the main port of the country, but in recent years it has suffered several strikes and political conflicts that affected its performance and the trust of the companies operating in it (as pointed out in this news piece). On the other hand in the last years we have also seen a considerable increase in the number of cruiser passenger coming to Lisbon, 9% in the first semester of 2015.  Another important information about Lisbon is the future expansion of the port in the south side of the river, in Barreiro. It seems the location of the new container terminal has been decided and in September they should say which company will do the environmental impact study and the initial project.

Future Barreiro Terminal
Future Barreiro Terminal

Lisbon, a difficult relation between the port and the city.

The relation between city and port in Lisbon has not been so easy as in other cities like Hamburg. Many inhabitants see the port as something standing between them and the river, impeding them from a more fluid relation with the Tagus. If we see the history of the city we can observe that, as it happened in many other port cities around the world,  in the end of the XIXth and the beginning of the XXth centuries many important infrastructures were developed along the coastline, therefore creating a barrier between the river and the city.

Exposição do Mundo Português

The discussion about the relationship between city and river has been long taking place. In the 1940 the first try to bring both together took place during the “Exposição do Mundo Português”. In the western part of the city for the first time public areas by the water were created, and the first connection under the railway lines was made. After that in the late 1980’s the issue was again a matter of great concern and we could see several initiatives that increased the public discussion. Particularly relevant was the competition that happened in 1988, titled “Lisboa, a cidade e o Rio – Concurso de ideias para a renovação da zona ribeirinha de Lisboa”, organized by the Portuguese Architectural Association.

After the competition the Waterfront issue started to be more present in the municipal agenda and in several master plan that came afterwards, some of them specifically focused in the Waterfront areas, like the POZOR from 1995, an initiative from the Port Authority. As it was planned, in the west part of the city, between Alcântara and Belém, new public spaces by the river were developed.

EXPO 98 Construction site.
EXPO 98 Construction site.

Three years later the International EXPO 98 took place in the east part of town, regenerating an area that was partly a port brownfield and container handling terminal. This area, that comprehends 5 km of Lisbon’s waterfront and around 340 Ha, was supposed to act as a new attraction pole for the development of the city towards this direction.

Today we see that the area once occupied by the EXPO 98 is a new part of the city where a healthy relation with the river has been established but it has not worked as the development forced that it was supposed to. In fact very often the perception is that it has remained as an island of contemporary architecture and new urbanization, but somehow segregated from the adjacent neighborhoods and without providing the expected attraction to the development of the urban tissue from the city center to the east. One of the very few projects that actually started to be built was the housing development signed by Renzo Piano, “Jardins de Braço de Prata” a project that started in 1999 from which we still can only see the concrete structure from one of the planned buildings.

As we can see, since 1940, the port of Lisbon has been freeing up several areas of the waterfront that were no longer suited for port activities and opening them for the city. At the same time is the leading partner of some of the most important projects that will happened in the river shore, like the new cruise terminal, a project from Portuguese architect João Luis Carrilho da Graça. Other relevant projects on the waterfront are the “Jardins da Ribeira das Naus”, a garden by the river that links one of the main transport hubs with Lisbon’s main square, or the development of a new museum sponsored by the electrical company EDP.

The plans for the future are also very ambitious. Besides the aforementioned terminal and museum, in the east part of town another important public area is planned, the eastern riverfront park. In the area adjacent to Piano’s project and stretching until the Parque das Nações (former EXPO 98) enclosure.

As we said at the beginning of the post, the port of Lisbon has been losing market to its national and international competitors in cargo handling, mainly in the container section. At the same time it has also been doing considerable efforts in order to improve the use of the available spaces in order to release the ones that are no longer appropriate for port use. For this reason is the new container terminal also very relevant, since it could indicate if there will be any changes in the activities in the spaces in Lisbon’s riverfront perhaps to other uses more adequate for the coexistence with the city, or if we might see other areas be released for urban development and public space.

This evolution in the use of the riverfront has been very positive for the citizens, which, as said before, complained that the port was cutting the relation with the river. What is not so clear and still has to be seen is what actions is the port authority developing in order to improve its relation with the city and the way the inhabitants see it. It would be interesting to confirm if the Port Authority is pursuing any particular strategy regarding the use of soft-values for the interaction with the city. There are also interrogations regarding the impact of the cruise activity. This industry has experienced an important growth in recent years and is relevant for the sustainable of the city to have a course of action to deal with this particular form of mass tourism.

Lisbon constitutes the main study case of the research because there are significant changes taking place and because the relation between city and port can be largely improved. We will try to discover what is the precise stage  at the moment and what can be learned and adopted from other study cases.

Continue reading “First stop: Lisbon”

The Journey

Thanks to the Übersee-Club I will be able to make a trip around Europe visiting the different port-cities that constitute my study cases. These cities are: Hamburg, Oslo, Helsinki, Rotterdam, Marseille, Genoa and Lisbon. The journey itself will start with on week in Portuguese capital, and then two weeks in each other city, except from Hamburg, since it is in Germany it could not be included in the official itinerary for the international trip.

The main goal of this travel is to be able to analyse the local realities and the relation between the city and the port in the different contexts. The selected study cases represent an heterogeneous sample of port cities, they have different size and play different roles as ports and cities in the national and international stages. In some of these cities the industrial port still is a significant part of the urban tissue, as in Genoa or Hamburg, and in others the main cargo activities have been placed outside the city like in Helsinki or Oslo, where mainly sport, leisure and passenger port uses are still located in the city center, and most of the former port areas have been regenerated giving birth to significant urban waterfront regeneration projects.

During my visits to the different cities I will not only observe the reality of the place, but also get in contact with the different stakeholders involved in the process, mainly the Port Authorities and the Municipalities. As in any relationship it is crucial to communicated and to listen to both sides of the coin in order to get a real picture of what is happening. When the journey comes to an end in December, I hope I was able to identify the main elements that allowed these cities to improve the relation with the port.

The time is limited and the scope challenging. All the progress that I am able to do, all the interviews and personal opinions will be published in this blog. As I said before, this page will be the on board diary of this adventure!

Cities to visit

About the blog

I see this blog as a tool for my research, a sort of on board diary that will help me to keep track of the development of the investigation. At the same time since I started my PhD I have always wanted to organize my research. I intended to create a place where I could place all the resources, websites and books that I have consulted so it would be easier for me and for others that are interested in the same field to see them.

The port-cities tour will be an important part of the investigation, so the blog will also be used to show the activities that I have been up to. In it I will write about the inputs that I am getting from the visits, the cities, interviews and other sources.

The main subject will obviously be the relation between the port and the city (as the title already indicates) but since I am also interested in other fields, as Architecture, Design, Urban Planning, among others, I will eventually also post about them.

In the “Interesting Links” menu I will put the pages that I consider can be helpful for somebody researching port-cities or urban development in general.

I will try to keep a regular posting calendar, and active twitter account in order to facilitate the possible following of my activities.

I hope this blog proves to be valuable not just for me but also for other colleagues that might share interests in the same fields.


Allow me introduce myself. My name is José Manuel Pagés Sánchez, as said in the description on the side bar I am an Architect and PhD Student. Currently I am living in Frankfurt, Germany, and doing my research in the Hafencity University in Hamburg, supervised by Prof. Schubert.

The title of my investigation is “CITY AND PORT? CITY OR PORT? The coexistence between City and Port, the Lisbon Case.” It might sound a little bit reiterative, but it expresses a reality present in many port cities around the globe, the conflict between both entities and how very often, for different reasons, the port is “pushed” outside the city. The main goal would be to find coexistence strategies that can be applied to different cases, and to see how they could be adapted to one particular city, Lisbon, my hometown and an interesting case to observe the aforementioned conflict.

The research project is currently entering its second year, and is expected to continue for another 2/3 years. During my first year as a PhD Candidate I was able to keep on working as an architect and at the same time do my investigation, including congresses, field trips and bibliographical research. For this next year I was lucky enough to be awarded with two scholarships that will allow me to be 100% focus on my research. For this reason I would like to thank the Cusanuswerk Studienstiftung and the Übersee-Club.

Personally I face this new stage in my life as both an adventure and an investment. To be totally focused in studying a complex subject as this one mean entering new territories in order to produce new knowledge. It is also an adventure because I will make a trip around Europe visiting the different study cases. This travel will last for three months and I will explain better in my next post. The reason why I think is also an investment is because it implies a risk, the use of a resource and an opportunity cost. The risk is that the investigation does not come to a good end or that the produced knowledge is not useful, also is a personal risk and opportunity cost since as a young architect the time I will use in this in the research is time I will not be gaining important work experience in my profession. The main resource used here will be time, that is in my personal opinion one of the most valuable assets that we have, and we cannot buy, no matter how much money we have. Is our choice what to do with it, and to use this resource.

The main ambition and what makes the whole project worth it is the opportunity of creating new strategies that could help to improve the urban habitat. On a personal level I also believe that there are not many other things that could produce a greater feeling than mastering a subject or being an specialist in some field. I hope one day I could be on expert in the field I am studying.

On the following posts I will explain the goals for this blog and the Journey that I will start on September 1st.