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.
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.
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.
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.