Iconic Urban Artwork Site in Lisbon Center About to Get a Redo

The loss of these beautiful, albeit crumbling, walls will be bittersweet to those of us who love them. 

Let’s be honest. It was only a matter of time. But don’t go getting all upset just yet, because this project does have some merit — and it won’t be taking a cue from some other redevelopment nightmares we’ve seen popping up around Lisbon recently.

Azipalace – Investimentos Turísticos, SA has its sights set on revamping three abandoned buildings in Picoas on the busyAvenida Fontes Pereira de Melo. The three buildings in question are the last bastions of Lisbon’s romantic ruins in the area (now that the blue glass monstrosity across the road replaced what Altas considered to have been the ruined skeleton of the perfect library-to-be). 

Adorned with some of the more iconic urban works of art in the city by Os Gêmeos, Blu, and Sam3, these buildings are more than just property, as many consider them to be public artistic landmarks. Designed by Ressano Garcia, the buildings are one of the last examples of late 19th- and early 20th-century architecture in Picoas. The good news in all of this, Público reports, is “the municipality and the owner have reached an agreement: the original idea to erect a tower there was discarded and now they are proposing to maintain the original facades.”

While Azipalace is determined to rehabilitate the three existing buildings, judging by their 3D rendering, the graffiti will not be rescued nor incorporated into the final design. The group is also planning to construct two additional buildings and demolish the concrete structure at the back, Público reports.

The five buildings are, for now, intended for residential use while including “service areas” according to the firm’s proposal to Lisbon’s City Council, reading, “The present urban planning operation [is estimated at] 22,896.45 m² of surface pavement, of which 18,497.65 m² are allocated to residential use (136 dwellings) and 2,272.95 m² for services,” as per Lusa. 

You may be wondering what good “service areas” are to a residential building. Azipalace is owned by Azinor, which also owns Portugal’s SANA Hotel Group. Apparently, the group’s long-term goal for these buildings is slated towards tourism, ionline reports. “The hotel’s ‘prior tourist utility’ [license] is valid for 36 months [after the grand opening]. Therefore, until the end of this period, the law determines that…the hotel is open to the public, at which time it is then possible to apply for the attribution of tourist utility on a permanent basis,” according to the publication.

The site has already seen its fair share of hardships: two of the original buildings were demolished in 2004 while the remaining ones faced years of degradation, lack of maintenance, and several fires (one as recent as last March) to name a few. But the loss of these beautiful, albeit crumbling, walls will be bittersweet to those of us who love them. 

Lisbon’s Urban Planning Department gave the project the green light on June 28, 2021 with the stipulation that the plans include a créche (day-care center) for 42 children, according to Público.

In a media statement that was also sent to the Lisbon City Council, the civic movement Cidadania LX applauded the decision to renovate the buildings, saying, “This is a project that represents a victory for the city and for all those who fought for that singular complex on Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo not to be demolished.”

The group went on to warn against the potential for water infiltration and damage to the metro while parking lots underneath the buildings are being installed. They are also concerned by the growing number of cars in a part of the city where there is currently no shortage of public transportation,Público reports.

On Key

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