Final stop: Back to Lisbon

Final stop: Back to Lisbon

The final stop of the Port-City tour was again Lisbon, where the trip first started in September. After visiting several port-cities in different countries we came back to the main study case in order to make the final analysis, complete the information about the Portuguese capital and reach some conclusions. In this post we will focus in the gathered information in two new interviews with the Municipality and the Port Authority. The conclusions of the trip will be published in a final stop after Lisbon. Also a paper about the developed research will be written and presented in the AESOP Young Academics congress in spring in the city of Ghent.

Lisbon’s study case has already been described in the blog in the beginning of the trip, hence for this post only the new information is relevant. In all the previous study cases we interviewed representatives from the main organizations. In this case in our first stop we were only able to speak with Mr. Rui Alexandre from the APL (Lisbon Port Authority). This time we were able to contact with Mr. Pedro Dinis (PD), Architect head of the public space department in Lisbon’s Municipality (CML). We also spoke once again with the APL, this time with Ms. Mariana Teixeira from the development and institutional relations department and Ms. Carla Matos, architect from the same institution.

The relation between the city and the port

When we asked the interviewees about the issue both mentioned that in the last decade the relation has evolved positively, more significantly in the institutional field.


PD pointed during our interview that the key moment for the current stage of the relationship was the passing of the law DL 100/2008 of June 16 2008. In this new legal document it was stated that the territory under the Port Authorities control would be moved to municipal control in case there was no port activity or port expansions planned in it. The importance of this document is obvious; previously we had already seen waterfront interventions, like the EXPO 98, or important plans, like the POZOR, criticized for its excessive construction near the river. The main step forward of this law was the normalization of the port land release process. An official procedure for this sort of change was created, prepared for improving the urban integration of these territories and avoiding industrial brownfields.

The next step releasing the unused port areas was the creation of a strategic plan in order to grant the correct and promptly transformation of the concerned territories. In the case of Lisbon this mandatory document, as pointed out by PD, was the General Plan of Interventions in the waterfront of Lisbon. In this document, we can find the different partial plans for the released sectors of Lisbon’s waterfront, back then with 19 km length. At the same time the plan established which areas would remain as active port and also which ones would have a mixed management.

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General Plan of Interventions in the waterfront of Lisbon. Source:

In the first posts about Lisbon we saw that the active port is mainly concentrated in two sectors, the one from Poço do Bispo to Sta. Apolonia, and the one in Alcântara. Here the APL has total autonomy regarding the planning although generally the APL contacts the municipal authorities regarding new interventions, as confirmed by both sides. We have not seen major changes in the port infrastructure and as we know the main interventions will happen in the south side of the river.

The three mixed use areas at Lisbon’s waterfront are: Pedrouços dock, Santos and the waterfront sector where the new cruise terminal is being built. These territories will later be explained as well as other waterfront interventions.

In our interview we also asked about a possible collaboration or a public company for the management of the waterfront territories, just like we have seen in Oslo (Fjordcity) or Rotterdam (Stadshavens). In Lisbon we already had public agencies of joint ventures for the development of waterfront projects with two cases being particularly relevant: the Parque Expo and the Frente Tejo. Both platforms produced visible results in the city. The first one was in charge for the management of the EXPO 98 area, and later on it developed several urban plans and waterfront regeneration projects in the scope of the Polis program. The second one was responsible for the three key projects Lisbon’s waterfront, the Museu dos coches (Carriage Museum), the Praça do Comércio and the Ribeira das Naus. Unfortunately both platforms were closed due to political or financial reasons. PD agreed that it could be an interesting option for the future perhaps not a public company but rather an organization focused in the management process of the waterfront, with fixed meetings for discussing the matters related with this particular territory.

Museo dos Coches. Project from Arch. Paulo Mendes da Rocha in Belém. The new museum was responsibility from the extinguished Frente Tejo organization. Source:


In our first posts we already saw that for the local inhabitants Lisbon is a maritime city but not necessarily a port-city. In this issue we find similarities with the situation we encountered in Oslo, where the Fjord is the main identity element and not the port. In the case of Lisbon the Tejo (Tagus River) is indeed a constant presence in the arts and the history of the city. It was the connection with the sea and the source of inspiration for poets and painters.  On the other hand, as all interviewees confirmed, historically the city was not so much open to the river, there was a clear connection and the river was an important economic resource, but at the same time was something to protect themselves from. From the river several threats could arrive to the city so only in certain areas the contact with the water was open, although until a certain point there were constructions directly in the coastline. We could say the current public quest for the access to the river is not a re-conquest of the waterfront, as we find often in the media, but rather a first conquest. Also is important to notice, as pointed by the APL professionals, that the industrial Port of Lisbon did not developed using urban territory, but by creating landfills in front of the city. It is clear that we have seen this situation in other cases, like Oslo, but also Marseille and Genoa.

One of the main challenge for the APL regarding its relation with the city and the citizens is clearly the communication and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). If the people from Lisbon are able to understand how important the port is, perhaps they might embrace it as an element for the urban identity.

The Waterfront

One of the most intriguing features of Lisbon’s waterfront is the relatively scarce construction near the water. When we compared with other cases we see that in the north-central European cities, like Oslo, Helsinki, Rotterdam or Hamburg, the urban tissue reaches the water line. In the Portuguese case, except some port related buildings such as old warehouses, silos or terminals, we find very few new buildings. The new constructions on the waterfront are almost exclusively in the Expo area, or in Cais do Sodré. When we asked PD his onion about this characteristic, he explained there might be several explanations for this issue. The POZOR plan, as he mentioned, included a considerable amount of construction in the waterfront and it was not well received, therefore it might have been a reaction to it. On the other hand the concept of leaving the waterfront free from dense construction had the support of all political groups which was considered to be a necessary common ground for the future development. At the same time the construction constraints are stricter regarding housing projects. We can find new buildings in the waterfront related with other uses, such as offices in Cais do Sodré, or research, the Champalimaud Foundation. The limitation for housing projects is due to the fact that this sort of development changes the perception of the river, creating spaces that might be perceived as semi-private, harming the public identity pretended for this sensitive section of the city. The exception to this rule can be found in the Expo area, far from the historic city center, where small amount of housing were allowed near the water. In the neighbor municipalities we can find more projects of this kind, mainly in Oeiras and Cascais. Finally another important issue is the fact that Lisbon is the center of the metropolitan area with almost 3 million inhabitants that come to the city, therefore it is necessary to have large public spaces able to answer the demands of this population.

East part of the city

We have previously seen that there are several important projects planned for Lisbon’s waterfront. In the initial posts we explained that some of these projects had a doubtful future. For these reason we asked Arch. PD about them. Apparently, the economic crisis that stroke Portugal in 2008, and that we still suffer nowadays, was the main reason for the delay of these projects. The plan for Matinha, the area contiguous toward the south to Parque das Nações, is being developed into further detail. Next to it, the Jardins de Braço de Prata from Renzo Piano, is currently being revised, we can imagine it is necessary to update the project since it was originally designed in 1999. In the same area the eastern riverfront park should also be developed as compensation for the housing development. Since the project did not advance when it was expected, we can imagine that for this reason the investor did not built the park. As we mentioned in the previous posts about Lisbon, the competition for this new green area took place but it was cancelled due to irregularities in the process. Its development should be resumed in short time.

Plan from the Braço de Prata housing development, original project from 1999. In the image we also see the plan for Matinha. Source:

Central section

Near the historical city center is where we find one of the first mixed management areas, the Doca da Marinha (Navy dock), Also here we can find the Cais do Jardim do Tabaco and the old Doca do Terreiro do Trigo. In this location is the passenger terminal of Sta. Apolonia which will be replaced by the new Lisbon Cruise Terminal (LCT). In October 2015 the building contract was signed and the construction is already taking place. The new infrastructure should be finish for the first months of 2017. The location of this new terminal caused much discussion back in 2010 when the architectural competition took place. Its location in a sensitive context was seen with some reluctance by some planners. PD explained us why this place and this project were chosen. There were three main reasons: (i) one of the main goals was to create a direct pedestrian connection with the main tourist attraction areas and avoid the traffic generated by the large amount of tourists that arrive in the cruises. If the terminal would have been placed in the other possible location, Alcântara, the traffic problem would continue and new public transport lines would be needed; (ii) the context where the new construction will be built is indeed very sensitive, but at the same time is considerably degraded, it is expected that the new terminal will help to regenerate the area and the local commerce; (iii), another key goal was the creation of public space on the waterfront, the project from Carrilho da Graça generates new public areas on the ground but also on an elevated level.

The new Lisbon Cruise Terminal (LCT), a project from Arch. João Luis Carrilho da Graça. Source:

In the central section of the riverfront we can find two new projects that will improve the relation with the river. Near the Sta. Apolonia cruise terminal the same architect won the competition for the Campo das Cebolas, next to Praça do Comércio. This new space will have a green area near the river and improve the living conditions of this neighborhood, which due to its dense medieval urban structure has almost no green spaces. The other project, in Cais do Sodré, will improve the existing square opening it to the river with a new space by the water. Between both interventions the Ribeira das Naus project is already in use, since mid 2014, with very acceptance from the citizens.

New project for Cais do Sodré. Arch. Bruno Soares. Source:
Campo das Cebolas, a new public space in Lisbon’s Waterfront. Arch. João Luis Carrilho da Graça.Source:

In the area of Santos, one of the mixed management sections, there is still no specific project for it. In the strategic plan there are guidelines to what could happen in this area, mainly destined for leisure facilities. In the same document the main goal was to improve the visual and pedestrian connections between the consolidated urban structure and the river.

West waterfront

Alcântara is the second part of the waterfront where we can find the active port. Besides the cargo and cruise terminal we can also find the general offices of the APL and the historic cruise terminal that hosts paintings from Almada Negreiros. This building, as we mentioned in the initial posts, will be refurbished to host the APL headquarters and the documentation center that we will describe later.

Along the river, the next area where most important changes will take place, besides de new museum in Belém, is the Docapesca- Doca de Pedrouços, the third mixed management section of the waterfront. In this territory we used to find the fishing activities that unfortunately were moved outside Lisbon, to the MARL (Mercado Abastecedor da Região de Lisboa) and Nazaré. MT mentioned that the existing facilities were already in poor condition, therefore change was necessary. In this case a new agreement regarding this area was signed between the municipality and the APL during the port’s day, on the first of November of 2015. The main goal for this collaboration is the development of a sailing center including training facilities and a marina for teams from the Volvo Ocean Race, in order to allow them to stay the whole year and not just during the event. The municipality agreed to this new activity since they are also potentiating the water sports among the schools of the city. Also as compensation they demanded a new pedestrian connection with the waterfront to be built in Belém, what would allow the replacement of the existing ones, which were supposed to be temporary but ended up remaining for several years. In the same sections we should also see in the following years the second stage of the Champalimaud Center. For the development of this area the APL also collaborated with Oeiras, the bordering municipality. Ideally this project could be extended until the national stadium sport complex, regenerating a major section of the waterfront with 2 km, joining municipalities and port.

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Champalimaud Foundation. Project from Arch. Charles Correa. Source:

Communication Soft Values

Talking with the neighbors

We have seen previously in this research how important is the communication and interaction with the local communities for the relation between city and port. In the case of Lisbon we asked the representatives of the APL what initiatives were being taken in this matter. Regarding the communication we were told that the contact with the local communities is done mainly through the official channels, collaborating with the municipality and the freguesias, the neighbor or parish representatives. Apparently in recent years there was no need to establish a direct communication with the inhabitants of the areas near the active port in the north side of the river. Nowadays the main effort is been made in the south side, in the areas affected by the new terminal. In this context there were at least three debates with the locals since the project location was decided.


For the disclosure of seaport soft values, the port-center are a very useful tool. We have seen in Genoa and Rotterdam how they can explain the port reality and increase the acceptance of the port. In the case of Lisbon, MT confirmed us that there is a project for a new documentation and information center (CDI). The project is associated with the refurbishment of the cruise terminal of Alcântara, as it was early told by Arch. Rui Alexandre, and it would include an exhibition area prepared for groups of different ages, researches space, an area for meeting with the municipalities and citizens and a café. This new facility could complete the existent exhibitions about the history of the city since, as we said in previous posts, the current information available in the city and navy museum does not explain the important role of the port in the development of Lisbon over the last 150 years.  Ideally the port-center could be integrated in the network of Lisbon’s museum and libraries. For the moment the CDI is still a project without a specific opening date and is certainly pending from other real estate operations that would make possible the moving of the APL headquarters to the aforementioned terminal.

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Alcântara Passenger terminal. This building will be refurbished and host the CDI. Inside we can visit the paintings from Almada Negreiros. Author: José M P Sánchez

Image of the Port

Early before we mentioned the open day at the port of Lisbon that took place in Autumn 2015. This was the first time this sort of event took place in Lisbon. During this day the citizens could visit historic ships, like the navio escola Sagres, tub boats or the cruise terminal. We were told that the initiative was prepared in very short time therefore it did not got all the attention it could have gotten. The intention is to transform it into a fix event twice a year in fixed dates, which would allow more detailed planning and disclosure in the media. In other port-cities, like Hamburg and Rotterdam, these sort of actions are celebrated and bring the people to the port. The scale is clearly different but the effect can still be very positive.

Visitors during the Open day at the Port of Lisbon. Source: Porto de Lisboa

During the time spent in Lisbon we got to know other cultural initiatives also related with the port, for example an exhibition with historic pictures of the port that has been on tour in different locations. Regarding other cultural events, like concerts or festival, the APL rents some spaces for them, like the Nós festival in Algés waterfront. In compensation, besides getting a rent, they also request that the image of the port is present, mainly by playing a video before the shows. In other cases we have seen stronger port characterization of the space where the concerts take place, for example the Elbjazz festival in Hamburg or the classical music concert in Las Palmas.

Like many other ports the APL has developed a collaboration program with many schools of the region, organizing visits for children and teens. In the early mentioned agreement between the municipality and the APL, besides the professional sport facilities, the goal is to increase the water sports presence in the schools of the city.


The relation between the port and the city in the context of Lisbon has evolved significantly as we have just seen. Although the agreements took a while to happen, they did gave an important thrust to the synergies between both parties. Unfortunately the crisis that stroke the country in the year 2008 affected negatively the urban development towards the river and the port. In this post we have seen that there are important projects planned for the waterfront, but most of them have suffered a delay of several years, in some case even more than a decade. The result is that for several years we had areas of the waterfront that no longer had port use, but were not fully integrated in the urban structure.

During this time gap when the projects were place on hold, it could have been interesting to create temporary uses in order to allow them to be assimilated by the local inhabitants. Nowadays, as we were told by the municipality, the projects will finally become a reality and the general image of the waterfront should be improved. For the next step of the research it remains to analyze the most delicate part of the waterfront, the actual border between city and port in both sections of the active port in the north side. In these areas the challenge is even more difficult and a more thorough investigation will be required.

Port of Lisbon. The main challenger remains the border between the active port and the city.  Source: Port of Lisbon

The expansion of the port in the south part of the river will also be an interesting subject to study. We have already described the main goals and the process so far. The development of the ongoing competition and the approach for the relation with the municipalities should be also very interesting. The main question might be: How to create a container terminal in a brownfield which relates with the local community and the urban structure?

In all the interviews performed in this visit and the previous one. it was clear that the port is an important part of Lisbon, therefore its presence should not be questioned. However, we find that many inhabitant do not share this point of view.  The fact that the port did not actually took space from the city, but built its own in landfills, does not eases the image of the harbour among the locals. Lisbon is a river-city, but could it be a port-city? In this context the communications strategy has a key role. In order to have a good port-city relation in the future, the APL must act now. To achieve the acknowledgement from the citizens as a key element of their identity, the port must open itself even more and intensify the dialogue. Several important initiatives have been started, we hope they are consolidated and are able to give a correct use to the seaport soft-values.

For the next stages of the research we will address some of the problems here mentioned, particularly the role of port centers and the good practices on social integration of ports. This following step should be done collaborating with the AIVP, which will allow a new approach and hopefully bring new inputs from renowned professionals in the port-city relation field.