Looking Ahead: Lisbon in the Future

Lisbon in the future Lisbon went through one of the most radical makeovers in the world’s recorded history following the 1755 earthquake that left it almost completely in ruins. That led to the rebirth of the Baixa district, and in more recent times in 1988, most of the Chiado quarter went down in flames in a major fire, only to be revived into an even more cosmopolitan and vibrant center in the city today. Also, in the late 1990s, all of the eastern section of the city was reconverted from an ugly industrial area into an ultra-modern residential and leisure district to host the World Fair Expo 98, which then became what is now known as Parque das Nações.

Therefore, being no stranger to major makeovers, and with its riverfront and entire historical center in desperate need of an extensive intervention, Lisbon is now ready for another major cosmetic surgery. In recent years there have been controversial discussions on how to renovate the Baixa district for an upcoming evaluation by UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Site, and just this week an ambitious plan was unveiled to convert the entire riverfront from Parque das Nações all the way to Belem into a mostly leisure zone.

Two major projects will serve as catalysts for their surroundings. One is the upcoming Design and Fashion Museum which will be located in a building taking up an entire block in the Baixa district, and the other is a new building in Belem by Pritzker-winning architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha for the new and expanded Coaches Museum.

For the Baixa, plans include pedestrianizing two of Comercio Square’s sides and opening shops, galleries, and cafes under its arcades, while for Belem pedestrians will also be given more space, with the plan to sink the train tracks underground so that it is possible to walk from Jeronimos Monastery to the riverfront without being blocked by the rail service to Cascais.

Many of these projects have a deadline of two years, so a rejuvenated Lisbon will already be seen by late 2010, with other plans being long-term and completed over the next two decades. That includes a third new bridge across the Tagus that will connect the city to its new international airport that will be located across the river.

Simpler but no less important works in the city includes covering up all graffiti that has infested the entire Bairro Alto neighborhood in recent years, as well as renovating the pretty Santa Luzia viewpoint that currently stands in a moribund state with most of its attractive tiles now broken or missing, as well as creating a new viewpoint next to the ruins of Carmo Convent.

Maintaining, renovating, and making an ancient city evolve is not an uncomplicated task, but despite all the hardships and controversies, Lisbon eventually overcomes its obstacles. And nowhere else in the world will you find a city so melancholically linked to its past and traditions, while at the same time looking to adapt to the challenges of modern and future life. There are plenty of reasons to go to Lisbon today, and there will certainly be many more to return in the future.

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