Prata Living Concept: Lisbon’s Exclusive Town

Prata Living Concept — Braço de Prata — has just completed its latest stage with a further 32 properties for sale. But, will it be a destination for all or an elitist neighborhood?

Headed by architect Renzo Piano, the project was originally started in 1999 but, tied up in bureaucracy, was not given the green light until 2010. That saw Portugal in the depths of an economic crisis and the project was once again put on hold until 2016.

The ambitious project is based on the banks of the Tejo, in Marvila next to Parque das Nações. It is being overseen by NORFIN and promoted by the Lisfundo closed fund, while being financially backed by Caixa Geral de Depósitos and Novo Banco. The project is expected to be completed in 2027, although some are hopeful that this date could be brought forward.

Renzo Piano in the 1980s

Piano is a renowned Italian architect with buildings around the globe, from museums to hospitals. He is a winner of the Pritzker Prize — in the same year the Prata Living Concept was drawn up, incidentally — and has garnered much praise throughout his career. He founded his firm, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, in 1981 and currently splits his time between Paris and New York.

In 2017, the first 30 of a planned 499 apartments went on sale for between 550 thousand (T2) and 2.5 million euros (T5+ 1 Duplex). Speaking to Diário de Notícias at the time, Piano said he “expect[s] a mix of people to come,” rather than the development being “just for special people.”

But with a T2 going for more than half a million Euros, how mixed can this project really be? To put this cost in perspective, if someone earning the average salary in Portugal were to spend 50% of all their income on housing, it would take them more than 80 years to buy the cheapest T2 apartment available. And that isn’t including interest.

In the same 2017 interview, Piano explains his desire for Prata Living Concept to become a destination, with shops and restaurants, which according to him would create a mix of people in what he envisioned as a “small town.”  By incorporating existing factories and art installations into the design, the project hoped to stay in line with the rest of the city.

Furthermore, the design has a modern take on traditional materials, using ceramic tiles that conjure up images of old Lisbon.  Noble in design, Piano includes open and covered squares “where people [can] meet and stay together,” with him calling this “the spirit of the scheme.” However, with the high cost of these apartments, and wages unlikely to catch up any time soon, whether this project develops into a place with a “mix of functions [and] economic levels” rather than an elitist neighborhood will only be seen upon its completion.


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