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Route II: from heavy industry to the creative industry
What happens when heavy industry ceases to serve the city? It goes creative. Or that, at least, is what happened in Lisbon. It took what no longer served a purpose and discovered new and better ideas. In sum, dead places within the city were brought back to life more alive and creative than ever.
The western riverside area of the capital is the perfect example of this transformation. Old buildings witnessed the flourishing of a new industry, one that was purely creative and based on the DNA of its facilities, turning Lisbon into one of the coolest cities on the globe.
LXFactory, in Alcântara, represents this cluster of creative industries perfectly – a hub of businesses mostly linked to the creative industries located in former factories and today recognised as a “creative island”. Backdrop for a diverse range of events in the areas of fashion, advertising, communication, multimedia, art, architecture and music, among others, the industrial atmosphere at LXF is evident. It is an experiences factory where you can intervene, think, produce, present ideas and products in a place that is for everyone and belongs to everyone.
No less artistic is Village Underground. Located very close to Lx Factory, it is designed for all those seeking an original space to set up a business – however creative. With its old double-decker buses and ship containers, the “village” has shared its “home” with the Museu da Carris (Railway Museum) since 2014. Work, and lots of play, exhibitions, fairs and restaurants – from inside and outside the old buses which once were used for something other than the creative industry.
In the same surroundings, you’ll find Pilar 7, an interactive and immersive experience that provides a unique look at the 25 April Bridge – considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. Via a tour that takes in the exterior spaces of this key column of the bridge and the sensory experience that awaits on the inside, visitors take a journey through the history of its construction ending with a ride by lift up to a panoramic viewing platform that offers an extraordinary view of the city and the River Tagus.
Remaining beside the river, it is impossible not to notice the huge series of orange industrial buildings that rise up between Alcântara and Belém. The Museu da Electricidade (Museum of Electricity) is a superb example of industrial architecture from the beginning of the 20th century which tells the story of this electricity generating plant that operated until 1951 and supplied greater Lisbon with energy. But it is not just dedicated to the past. The museum holds exhibitions which, in one way or another, mostly try to combine art with science. This old museum belonging to Fundação EDP (EDP Foundation), housed in the former Tagus Power Plant, is now part of the recently opened Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT).
For anyone who enjoys a good view, the invitation of a trip to the other side of the river is inevitable. Continuing the tour to Belém, it is possible to cross the river by ferry to Porto Brandão or even Trafaria, where you can admire the buildings mentioned above from an entirely different perspective. The south bank of the Tagus is without a doubt the best place to enjoy a view of Lisbon. You have to see it to believe it.