80 years ago, Portugal celebrated 800 years of itself. As a result, the now highly popular tourist destination that is Belém underwent a few significant changes.
Here’s some more detailed history from the organizers of this historical exhibit:
“In 1940, the Portuguese World Exhibition and Belém seemed to be one. The vast dimension of the event took over the neighborhood. The Estado Novo announced admirable changes in those empty lands, available to host such a great party. But what was this place before 1940?
In addition to the uncultivated land, the neighborhood had a dense, varied and attractive urban core. People lived and traded on streets, lanes and streets consolidated over the centuries, growing in urbanity, since Infante D. Henrique had built a first church there, that of Santa Maria de Belém. This urban and popular nucleus complemented the erudite and noble character conferred by the surrounding farms and palaces – such as the Palácio da Praia (where today is the Centro Cultural de Belém), demolished only in 1962, or the Palácio de Belém, transformed into the official residence of the Presidency of the Republic, after 1910.
The preparation of the Portuguese World Exhibition involved a significant number of demolitions, which amputated the neighborhood in many of its valences: urban structure, housing, commercial spaces, places of sociability, market, and even heritage buildings.
Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the Portuguese World Exhibition remains in place, in physical structures that we can see and touch, but above all in an incorporeal way.
‘BELÉM: DEMOLIR TO STAGE’ follows this path. It is an exhibition curated by Pedro Rito Nobre that will take us on a journey through the memories that still exist in this place, and others that have been erased. ‘With this exhibition, I hope that the public (in general, and especially those who know Belém today, including the residents) will gain a sense of how Belém has evolved and transformed over time. We get used to places as we know them and sometimes we do not question what was there before, or the reasons why they were transformed. Many of the spaces that we cross today are direct heirs of the Portuguese World Exhibition and some almost surprising or misfit elements are, after all, remains of that event.'”