Lisbon riverfront regeneration, what kind of city is this development model actually serving?

“(...) cities are collective territories, shaped for the possibility of a life in common. Of many different people, sharing, dividing, using an enormous structure, built together (...) mechanisms generating exclusion, making a few citizens “more citizen” than others, do not fit into this project (...)” (1)

The “city” which corroborates the “right to the city” as a co-created space for urban life, where citizens are the main protagonists (2), is loosing territory in port cities, such as Lisbon, where local government is using the city’s riverfront as a catalyst for short-term profit.

A sustainable approach towards the redevelopment of Lisbon’s disabled industrial-port areas (which passed to the “public domain”) would ensure that the process would be implemented step-by- step, independently of economic cycles and short-term interests, in a way that present and future generations of citizens could benefit from it (3). It would equally involve the local communities in the planning and the decision-making.

On the contrary, since the process started (4) with the slogan” return the Tejo River to the people”, Lisbon has changed radically, regardless of public interest, and in great speed.

The central riverside was given away to the business of mass tourism (5), and the areas along the port-industrial areas to the east and west, are the focus of tech industry and the global property market.

The prime plots and buildings have already been taken over, and the leftovers are subject to dispute among several interests. Even social housing neighbourhoods with great socioeconomic, urban and environmental deficits but enjoying great views towards the river, are threatened with gentrification.

The cranes are popping-up everywhere along the 19km of Lisbon riverfront, and they are building luxury condominiums (6). Most of the constructions are in an early state but by joining all the project renderings, available on the internet, one can already envision Lisbon’s riverside in the near future.

The question is: what kind of city is this development model actually serving?

(1) Dias, Manuel Graça (1999), Manual das Cidades, Relógio D´Água Editores

(2) Lefebvre, Henri (1968), Le Droit à la ville

(3) Giovinazzi, O. & Moretti, M. (2010). Port Cities and Urban Waterfront: Transformations and Opportunities.

(4) Plano Geral de Intervenções da Zona Ribeirinha (general plan of interventions along Lisbon riverfront), approved in 2008 / A protocol between the City Council and the Lisbon Port Authority (APL) transferred the disabled port areas to the public domain (approx. 30 hectares) 2008/09.

PDM Lisboa 2012 (Lisbon’s master plan 2012) corroborates the interventions proposed by the PGIZR.

(5) – Extension between Cais do Sodré and Santa Apolónia. The completion of the first phase of interventions along the riverfront initiated in 2009 by the City Council is ongoing, with the exterior arrangements around the new Lisbon cruise terminal and the conversion of the former boats station in Terreiro do Paço into a maritime-tourism terminal.


Some of the ongoing residential projects (early stage):

Martinhal Residences in Parque das Nações (Capinha Lopes / Elegant Group)

Convento do Beato (Risco / Larfa Properties)

Projecto Urbano Dom Luís Boavista (Saraiva e Associados / SILVIP)

Promenade (Frederico Valsassina / AM | 48)

Complexo de Alcântara (Saraiva e Associados / BNP Paribas, Grupo SIL)

Post and photo credits: Lisboa Architecture Walks & Trips

Keywords and hashtags: #riverfrontregeneraton #lisbonriverfront #urbanredevelopment #city #righttotehcity #gentrification

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