Lisbon and the River Tagus have been in a loving embrace ever since the city was founded.
It was the city’s privileged location as a “garden at the sea’s edge” that created Portugal’s first links to the outside world.
In the 15th century, with the Portuguese voyages of discovery, the port of Lisbon set the tone for a city whose fortunes began to skyrocket, transforming itself into a sea port, an economic hub and a city of imperial importance.
The process of industrialisation, in its turn, would only truly begin in the second half of the 19th century with the construction of factories along the side of the river.
The existence of flat land stemming from land reclamation projects, the river links already mentioned and, later, rail links explained the location there of a large number of manufac-turing plants.
With the industrial development of the 19th century, the entire eastern area (Xabregas, Beato, Marvila…) gained in importance. The Poço do Bispo area became heavily populated with countless teeming workers’ villages to serve the factories that set up there, essentially between Rua do Açúcar and Braço de Prata.
On the other side of the Tagus, other cities began to gain in importance. Just a few minutes from the capital (20 minutes by boat) stands Barreiro, a key interchange in the country’s rail network which would become an important port of entry into Lisbon due to a ferry service.
Barreiro was one of the biggest industrial centres in Europe in the first half of the 20th century, and its heritage is still very visible to this day. From the Casa Museu Alfredo da Silva (Alfredo da Silva House Museum) to the Museu Industrial da Baía do Tejo (Tagus Bay Industrial Museum), it is possible to discover Barreiro’s entire past, transformed as it was from a small fishing town to a genuine industrial hub.
From Barreiro to Cacilhas is just a short trip (or 10 minutes by ferry if coming from Lisbon). With its privileged view of the capital, the busy Ginjal path (now redundant) contains re-mains of buildings, mostly factories and commercial premises, which were abandoned many years ago.
In Almada, Lisnave and its giant gantry are part of Lisbon’s visual architecture, just like Mundet in Seixal.
Back in the capital, the tour continues along the side of the river. In a jiffy, you reach Alcântara with its vaunted creative hubs.
Starting with LX Factory, which opened in 1846 when the Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense, one of the most important factory complexes in Lisbon, was founded there. Today, it describes itself as an “experiences factory where you can intervene, think, pro-duce, present ideas and products in a place that is for everyone and belongs to everyone”.
And ending with Village Underground, which has shared its “home” with the Museu da Carris (Railway Museum) since 2014, The Village consists of shipping containers and old buses turned into offices and areas dedicated to creativity.
In sum, it shows us the history of industrial architecture, which, it is true, never stays the same and is always changing. The spaces that were once used for industry are still used for industry today, but a new, creative one.
Common to them all, besides the buildings themselves, is the backdrop of the River Ta-gus.