Portuguese National Pavilion (Pavilhão de Portugal)
Cais Português

Lisbon 1900



Alvaro Siza 1998


The Portuguese National Pavilion by Alvaro Siza was designed to be the architectural centerpiece of the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition. This building functions as the monumental entry gate to the Expo site, which frames the visitor's view of the ocean and helps draw the visitor's attention to the Expo’s theme, “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future,” commemorating 500 years of Portuguese discovery.



As one of the most internationally recognized architects to come from Portugal, it came as little surprise that Alvaro Siza would be selected for such a high profile project of national importance. When he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in architecture in 1992, the jury citation for the prize said that “his shapes, molded by light, have a deceptive simplicity about them; they are honest.... That simplicity, upon closer examination however, is revealed as great complexity. There is a subtle mastery underlying
what appears to be natural creations.” This pavilion is certainly no exception.


The most iconic element of this pavilion is the roof covering the ceremonial plaza, which appears to gently hang like a fabric canopy. Here he challenges us to understand the roof; how, with such a seemingly simple gesture, can there be such great complexity and beauty. Siza had come up with the idea of a hanging roof, but was looking for something that was more fixed that a canvas canopy. The resulting solution is a magnificent concrete slab, 20cm thick, supported on steel cables that naturally hangs between the two porticoes from which it is suspended. The porticoes themselves are 14m tall and designed to withstand the immense tension caused by the canopy. They are covered in red and green ceramic tiles referencing the national colors of Portugal and the local building tradition of using azulejo (tin-glazed ceramic tiles) in building ornamentation.



The main exhibition spaces are housed in the rest of the building located to the north of the ceremonial plaza. This part of the pavilion posed a whole new set of challenges for Siza. For many World Expositions, the pavilions constructed are temporary and meant to be torn down at the end of the Expo. With the interests of sustainability in mind, the Lisbon committee had decided to ensure that the pavilions could be used after the Exposition had ended; however, they had not yet decided the future functions of the buildings. Siza therefore had to make the buildings as flexible and adaptable to future uses as possible. The overall dimensions were determined anticipating the future addition of double loaded corridors while the modulated window strategy offers a uniform distribution of light. Vertical circulation and interior courts were also designed with potential future uses in mind. Siza ensured that whether the pavilion continued on as a state museum or offices and administration, it would serve its purpose to its fullest potential.



Jeff Jerome 2009
(updated 2011)


How to visit


The Portugal Pavillion is located on the Lisbon waterfront near the Vasco da Gama bridge, about 8 km east of the city center.


On public transit, take the Linha do Oriente (Orient line or Red line) to Oriente station. The pavilion is about 300m east of the station.



Books and other web sites

See the project description and images at the Siza web site.





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