Architectural and urbanistic operations after the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition

Goals and Methods

This research project comprehends three general goals and seven specific ones.

General goals:

  • The first goal aims at discussing and reflecting the urban policies implemented in Portugal after the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition (Expo98), in order to create future lines for development;
  • The second goal aims at promoting a complete and comprehensive reading of the plans, programs and projects for Lisbon metropolitan area renovation after 1998, confronting different scales of analysis, thus framing how these urban strategies and design culture have influenced the feature of middle scale cities in the national territory;
  • The third goal aims at outlining and organizing the existing information regarding the plans and programs under study, as a base for future critical readings on the changes that have occurred in Lisbon and in the Portuguese territory, throughout the urban planning process followed by the last twenty years.

Specific goals:

  • To evaluate qualitatively the various urban actions carried out in the project research field, framing them within the overall national planning policies;
  • To map and to quantify the environmental impact of the changes in urban plans and interventions under study;
  • To perceive and to decode strategic lines for planning and for infrastructure implementation in the various actions under analysis, produced in Lisbon Metropolis after Expo98;
  • To confront the urban development relationships that took place in Lisbon with the international cases also occurred in the 1990s, namely the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, on the one hand, and the 1992 Seville and 2000 Hanover World Exhibitions, on the other hand;
  • To structure a reading map for the main works resulting from the large urban operations carried out in Portugal after Expo98, namely through Polis Program in middle scale cities;
  • To identify critically the main technological developments emerged during the construction processes applied in the works covered by the case studies;
  • To evaluate and to verify the social and economic impact of public and private investments in the different plans under analysis for Lisbon Metropolis.

Research plan and methodology:

The methodology applied in this research project will be grounded in three fundamental chapters.

The first chapter will be dedicated to the gathering and systematization of data, related to: different areas of intervention; main anchor projects; and main strategic, technological and conceptual choices.

The second chapter, with an interpretative and analytical nature, will be focused on the development of several tasks, according to four main research scopes, namely: 1) Territorial; 2) Urban and Architectural; 3) Technological; 4) Economic and Social;

Finally, the third chapter will be devoted to the presentation, dissemination, and public discussion of all results previously achieved within the project range.

The three chapters that frame this methodology will be developed during the thirty-six months established for the fulfillment of the research project. In order to reverse the linearity of the process, it is expected that the three chapters should overlap during the project time frame. Therefore, the first chapter will be developed during the first six months, through a dynamic process of management and systematization of primary sources and hypotheses launched by the research team. The second chapter will be developed between the sixth and thirtieth month. The third and final chapter will be developed during the last twelve months.

This research project is centered on the urban transformations that took place in Lisbon after Expo98. The project chronological delimitation is defined by the preparation and realization of Lisbon World Exhibition, and the two decades followed the great event. The research will be supported in three fundamental pillars: General Plan for Lisbon Waterfront Interventions (PGIFR); Plans for cities located in Lisbon metropolitan area, namely those of the so-called ‘South River Arch’, and the twenty-two plans of cities intervened through Polis Program.

The General Plan for Lisbon Waterfront Interventions (PGIFR), is a strategic instrument created to regulate and articulate among themselves a set of specific urban and architectonic interventions (in the sphere of cultural and leisure facilities, public space renovation or infrastructures – some of them above mentioned), predicted to be built along of Tagus riverbank in Lisbon, extending in a certain way the experience of Expo98 to all the waterfront of the city.

The plans developed for the ‘South River Arch’ were Vila Franca de Xira, Loures, Oeiras, and Cascais, situated on the northern bank of the River Tagus; and Almada, Seixal, Moita, Montijo, Alcochete, and Setúbal, on the southern.

The plans settled in the Polis Program were developed on a nationwide dimension, to the following cities: Bragança, Chaves Matosinhos, Viana do Castelo, Vila Nova de Gaia, Vila do Conde, Vila Real, at the northern part of Portugal; Aveiro, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Covilhã, Guarda, Leiria, Tomar Viseu, at the center; Agualva-Cacém, Almada and Setúbal at the Lisbon metropolis; and Albufeira, Beja, Portalegre, Silves, at the south. (

The period under study allows a prospective analysis concerning the repercussion of the Expo98 effect on the contemporary Portuguese territory and its configuration. This analysis paves ground for a broad debate regarding the innovation and the identity of Portuguese town-planning and architecture.

As Expo98 represents the apex of the Portuguese integration process into the European Union, it also marks the beginning of a time of cultural affirmation for Portugal, especially in the field of architecture. Consistently, this transitory moment corresponds to a trigger for the tourism industry, simultaneously with several remonumentalization initiatives along the country, seeking to make Portugal more internationally competitive in this strategic sector. The impact of this activity on the national economy was significant, with a positive balance of trade for tourism increasing over two billion Euros, between 2004 and 2013 (Ma15).

This situation favored the rehabilitation of the central areas of cities with greater potential for external representation. Directly or indirectly, the plans and programs referenced as the basis of this research have as a common denominator the design culture formulated since Expo98. These planning and territorial management instruments constitute a privileged mean to draw a picture of Portugal in the present moment, allowing to observe and clarify the following topics: a) changes that have been taking place in the Portuguese territory in the last two decades; b) interrelations between public policies, on the one hand, and environmental and landscape issues, on the other hand; c) different strategies for structural planning and for infrastructural options; d) cultural interactions between the Portuguese case and those of other European cities, where major world events took place at the end of the twentieth century; e) expression of contemporary architecture built in Portugal, together with its relation with its emplacements and preexistences; f) technological innovations in the building industry; g) finally, financial income, competitiveness, and social cohesion of plans and programs.

In this sense, both the urban planning and the actions carried out at the time following Expo98 will constitute the basic argument for evaluating and understanding the metamorphoses of the Portuguese territory and cities, thus enabling the framing of a set of approaches, whether morphological, strategic, infrastructural, architectural, social, or economic.

The project will be supported by the Dinamia/Cet-IUL research unit, from ISCTE-IUL, in partnership with the Lab Ticino, from Accademia di Architettura de Mendrisio – USI (University of the Italian Switzerland), together with the General Directorate of Territory (DGT).

The aim of this framework is to integrate a wider range of researchers, consultants, and fellow researchers, which will constitute different teams, in order to undertake the assigned tasks, thus establishing the complete research project. Some personalities should be highlighted as members of project team, namely Vítor Matias Ferreira, Emeritus Professor at ISCTE, is affiliated at Dinamia/Cet-IUL, he was the formerly responsible for the observatory ‘Expo98 in Lisbon: observing while being carried out?’, will participate as researcher. João Ferreira Nunes, the Director of the Lab Ticino, will be part of team as consultant. Nunes was also the author of both rehabilitation riverside landscape in the Expo98 area, and recently the Ribeira das Naus in the central area of Lisbon. Josep Acebillo (retired professor of USI) who will be also consultant has held, among other positions, the direction of the Urban Development Institute of Barcelona, which managed all the construction process of the 1992 Olympic Games facilities. Elisa Vilares, Head of the ‘Territorial Development and Cities Policies’ Division on the DGT, will be also is part of the research team.

The methodology to be undertaken in the research project will be supported by primary sources from the archives of several institutions, such as the General Directorate of Territory, the Municipalities and the technical staff who has worked in the several urban plans and projects under study. It is expected that, within the scope of the project, it will be possible to organize and to systematize scattered information, aiming at consolidating public databases and archives of the institutions involved.