Belém Cultural Center

Coordinates: 38°41′43″N 9°12′31″W / 38.69528°N 9.20861°W / 38.69528; -9.20861
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Belém Cultural Center
Centro Cultural de Belém
Belém Cultural Centre seen from the Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Belém Cultural Center is located in Lisbon
Belém Cultural Center
Location of the Belém Cultural Centre in Lisbon
Interactive fullscreen map
General information
TypeCultural centre, Concert hall, Convention centre
Architectural styleModern
LocationBelém, Lisbon
Coordinates38°41′43″N 9°12′31″W / 38.69528°N 9.20861°W / 38.69528; -9.20861
OpenedJanuary 1992
OwnerFundação Centro Cultural de Belém
Technical details
MaterialConcrete, lioz
Design and construction
Architect(s)Vittorio Gregotti with Manuel Salgado

The Belém Cultural Center (Portuguese: Centro Cultural de Belém) is a complex of artistic venues located in Belém in the city of Lisbon, Portugal. It is the largest building with cultural facilities in Portugal, with over 140,000 m2 (1,500,000 sq ft) of usable space. The centre was initially built to accommodate the programme of Portugal's Presidency of the European Council in 1992, but with the long-term goal of providing permanent venues for conferences, exhibitions and performance arts (such as opera, ballet and concerts), in addition to meeting halls, shops and cafés.


The main entrance to the Belém Cultural Centre

The decision to build the cultural center was taken in January 1988, as part of the Portuguese government's understanding that it needed building to host the works of Portugal's European Union Presidency (in 1992).[1][2] The building would also serve as a core facility for cultural and leisure activities after its term, and as a venue for conferences and exhibitions.

An international architectural competition was held and six proposals were invited to submit a preliminary project, out of the 57 submissions.[2] The final proposal, submitted by the architectural consortium of Vittorio Gregotti (Italy) and Atelier Risco at the time led by Manuel Salgado (Portugal), was designed to include five modules: a Conference Centre, a Performing Arts Centre, an Exhibition Centre, a Hotel and complementary equipment zone, but the Conference Centre, the Performing Arts Centre and the Exhibition Centre were initially built.[1][2][3]

Starting in July 1989, the pre-existing buildings along the waterfront were demolished and many of the infrastructures were reestablished. By January 1992, modules 1, 2 and 3 were completed and ready to accommodate the institutions, administration, communication centre and security of the European Union Presidency. A year later the Conference Centre and small auditorium (March) and later the Exhibition Centre were opened to the public. By September of the same year, the main auditorium was opened.


It has hosted events like the summit meeting of the heads of state of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).


A sculpture near one of the patios/entranceways to the cultural centre

The building is located in the parish of Belém, near the riverfront west of Lisbon, between the dual Avenida da Índia-Avenida de Brasília motorway and Rua Bartolomeu Dias.[3] Apart from fronting the Praça do Império (Imperial Square), it juxtapositions the Jerónimos Monastery, and is surrounded by many historical buildings, such as the Palace and Tower of Belém, National Museum of Archaeology, Planetarium, and Monument to the Discoveries.[3]

The Belém Cultural Centre has 140,000 m2 of construction area and was prepared in a very short period (1989–1992). The client of the project was the Portuguese State through the secretary of state for culture. Completed in 1992, it occupies a total of 100,000 m2 and is the work of architects Vittorio Gregotti and Manuel Salgado; the interior design was planned by Daciano Costa.

The centre's position, aligned with the Jerónimos Monastery, intentionally fronts the Império Square, and consists of structural blocks with courtyards and "patio-squares" that interconnect the three principal structures.[4] Each centre is separated by transversal "streets", that link the building's interiors which are extensions of the city of Lisbon's historical urban structure.[4] The centrality of the main building extends the urban fabric to the interior creating a public space.[4] This architectural style can best be interpreted by Santana and Matos (2010) who refer to as the "patios-squares" versus the "narrow streets" a conflicting dynamic structure.[4]

The Belém Cultural Centre won the International Stone Architecture Award at the Verona Fair in 1993.


The grand auditorium in April 2015

The centre features several areas with different roles:

  • The Conference Centre, provides a close link with the most varied business and professional sectors; conceived in order to support conferences and meetings, as well as the cultural center's operational services, stores, a restaurant, two bars, parking areas and the Jacques Delors European Information Centre;[1]
  • The Performing Arts Centre, the core of the site's cultural and artistic activities, it includes two auditoriums (the larger holding 1,429 seats and the smaller with 348 seats), rehearsal hall with 72 seats, in order to support film, opera, ballet, theatre and music events;[1] and
  • The Exhibition Centre, which includes four galleries for exhibitions of modern art, architecture, design and photography, in addition to cafés and shops; since June 2007, it has been the venue for the Foundation of Modern and Contemporary Art (the Berardo Museum Collection).[1]

The centre also provides additional services:

  • The Educational Service provides a close link between the Foundation and schools of various levels as well as other institutions; and
  • The Training Service is a service of the Belém Cultural Centre Foundation; courses, seminars and Conferences are directed towards teaching and learning, as well as the acquisition of further knowledge, skills and specialisation in the different areas of the arts, and culture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e E. Ferreira and J. Cabello (2008), p. 66
  2. ^ a b c Cátia Santana and Madalena Cunha Matos (2010), p. 4
  3. ^ a b c Cátia Santana and Madalena Cunha Matos (2010), p. 5
  4. ^ a b c d Cátia Santana and Madalena Cunha Matos (2010), p. 6
  • Ferreira, E.; Cabello, J. (2008), Lisbon: A Complete Visitor's Guide to the City, Florence, Italy: Casa Editrice Bonechi, ISBN 978-88-476-2319-4
  • Santana, Cátia; Matos, Madalena Cunha (12–15 July 2010), "Buildings and Urban Form: Investigating Buildings with a Positive Urban Transformation Dimension", Urban Transformation: Controversies, Contrasts and Challenges, 14th IPHS Conference (PDF), Istanbul, Turkey: Research Centre for Architecture, Urban Planning and Design (CIAUD)-Faculdade de Arquitectura – Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, pp. 4–6, retrieved 27 June 2011

External links[edit]