Contemporary architecture in Lisbon: The 5 works not to be missed (part 1)

Bom dia todos! Today I will take you with me to Lisbon and specifically I will take you to the discovery of some recently built architectural works. I took this trip 2 summers ago in 2016 and it was the first time I had landed in Portuguese land. I have to say that the most characteristic and “classic” things of Portugal have fascinated me a lot, but I was also impressed by the new, state-of-the-art constructions and how Lisbon is a city projected into the future. I find that Lisbon is a city for all tastes, both for those who want to discover the origins and authenticity, but also for those who, like me, love the avant-garde from an architectural (and engineering) point of view as well. There would be a lot to talk about, every building, every church and museum, but here I will summarize only a “small” part of what I have visited. Let’s begin!

Lisbona Miradouro de Santa Luzia
View of the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful places where to admire from above Lisbon and the Tejo river.

Berardo Museum

I start this little tour from the first museum I visited, the Coleção Berardo Museum (link here), which houses works of modern and contemporary art. Initially this building was not founded as a museum but as a Cultural Center to be used as a symbolic building during the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union in 1992. The project was developed and implemented between 1988 and 1993 by two architects: the Italian Vittorio Gregotti and the Portuguese Manuel Salgado. This structure was designed as a modular building that was to house a library, reading rooms and exhibition halls. The choice of the location in my opinion was spot on because it is located near two historical monuments of great importance, the Tower of Belém and the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. So if you are in the Belem district, it is almost impossible not to notice the grandeur of this museum, and not less important: the entrance is free, better than that!

Lisbona Museo Berardo

But returning to the architectural description, the thing that stands out most is the massive use of white limestone used as a coating. Ad hoc choice, as it is in line with the material used previously for the Belem Tower and the Monastery. Moreover, finding ourselves in a warm country where the sun always shines, the white of this stone stands out very much with the blue of the sky and creates a beautiful contrast. I can not but mention the beautiful lawn that extends to almost the bank of the river Tagus. In fact, after having walked all day and completed the visit to the museum it is a must a nice relaxing break in the shade of an olive tree.

Lisbona Museo Berardo esterno
External view of the Museum towards the bar and dining area. Ph credit:

Gulbenkian Museum

Another totally unexpected discovery was the Gulbenkian museum and the immense park that surrounds it. I recommend visiting this place because it is off the beaten track and because you will find many similarities with a famous American architect of the early ‘900 of the last century. The competition for the project was launched in 1960 and completed in ’69, and was greatly affected by the influence of the international architecture of that period, but above all the concept of organic architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright had a great importance. The winning architects Alberto Pessoa, Pedro Cid and Rui d’Athouguia managed to combine the architectural aspect with the naturalistic context, creating harmony between the interior and exterior spaces.

Lisbona Museo Gulbenkian
View towards the museum from the park

As Wright used to do, the museum is a total work of architecture, where everything was designed and thought to the smallest detail. The facade has left it of its original material, wich is exposed concrete and, if you take a closer look, you can see the signs of the wood grain of the formworks, even for the external paths. Instead they used a more “noble” material for the main granite entrance, and a wooden lining for ceilings and walls. Even the furniture and fittings had to be designed ad hoc and in line with the architecture of the building, so they made use of metal, dark leather, wood and fabrics.

Lisbona Gulbenkian
Interiors of the Foundation. Ph credit:

Elevador de Santa Justa

This lift is definitely one of the most popular attractions and admired by all the tourists who hang out in the center, and it is certainly one of those works that reminds a lot of something already seen. I have included the Elevador de Santa Justa on this list because it is in close correlation with the world famous Tour Effeil, even though the engineer was the Portuguese Raul Mesnier together with the French architect Louis Reynaud. The famous Parisian tower and this elevator share the neo-Gothic style of architecture and the material used, iron. Built in the early 1900s, this elevator was considered a work due to the considerable difference in height. Even today it keeps that retro charm with wooden cabins and beautiful wrought iron decorations. At the top you can enjoy a spectacular view of the whole of Lisbon, both to the Carmo convent and to the castle of San Jorge.

Lisbona Elevador de Santa Justa

Ascensor da Gloria

Staying on in terms of “elevators”, I wanted to briefly mention one of the three funiculars still in operation in the center of Lisbon. I mention it not so much for the “architecture” theme, but for its authentic design that still persists and characterizes the city. Sooner or later, going around Lisbon, you will surely come across one of these trams, for example the very famous electrico 28, or elevator, also because after having toured the whole city it is fun and relaxing to be driven around.

Lisbona Elevador da Gloria
Elevadore da Gloria, ph credit:ória_9.JPG

We have reached the end of the first part of this list of the 5 works of contemporary architecture. Do The fifth work missing, right? I will talk about it in the second part where I will handle the Park of Nations! I absolutely had to divide this article in two because in the next I will speak about other buildings that are even more recent and new. I hope this article was useful for a future trip and that it intrigued you. See you soon!


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