Located in Lisbon’s western district, on the bank of the River Tagus, and harmoniously integrated into architectural surroundings that are dominated by the splendid 17th-century Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, and with the Torre de Belém just a stone’s throw away, the Centro Cultural de Belém was conceived of as “a small part of the city of Lisbon, in its geography and its relationship with the river.”
Here, architecture and geography are brought together with a special sensitivity.
Consisting of separate buildings divided by streets, squares and bridges, the centre is a living space where people work, stroll around and enjoy the different forms of contemporary expression, conceived for all audiences of all ages.
Planned by the Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti and the Portuguese architect Manuel Salgado, the CCB is integrated into a monumental group of buildings where the wealth and variety of its built heritage and the collections of its museums – the museums of Ajuda, Archaeology and Ethnology, the Maritime Museum and the National Coach Museum, the Berardo Foundation Museum, the museums of the Presidency of the Republic, Electricity and Popular Art, among others, all testify to their importance both over the years and in the present-day climate.
The Olive Tree Garden, overlooking the River Tagus, enjoys a privileged location in this architectural whole. The lawn that stretches along the building’s southern façade runs alongside the Restaurante Este/Oeste, Fábrica das Artes/the CCB Educational Service and also the newly created space of the Garagem Sul/Architecture Exhibitions. This makes it a privileged space to be taken over by everyone: families that come here to enjoy their picnics, young people relaxing under the olive trees, or even children playing in the lakes on either side of the garden.
The CCB Plaza, located between the Performing Arts Centre and the Berardo Collection Museum, takes the form of an enormous atrium that “encloses” the public space of this complex. With an area of 1,140m2, it distinguishes itself from the other spaces through its dry and arid appearance, where the use of stone, of the same kind that was used in the past for building the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, and all over 18th-century Lisbon, imposes itself naturally. Silent and filled with bright light, this is one of the great squares of Belém.
The Caminho Pedonal (Pedestrian Path), is a street that divides the Centro Cultural de Belém into two symmetrical halves, leading to the Performing Arts Centre, and, further on, the CCB Plaza.
Recently it was given the name of “Caminho José Saramago”, in homage to the Portuguese winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1998) and is flanked on either side by shops and galleries. The relatively opaque light of this path is countered by the bridges, where the light of the city and the river take hold of the place and establish a direct relationship with the world outside.
The Water Garden located in the area to the north of the building, and leading directly to Rua Bartolomeu Dias, is one of the entrances to the Berardo Collection Museum. Situated at a much higher level than the street, this garden contains a long lake overlooking the city, establishing a close relationship between this building of the CCB and the city itself.