The inevitable port-city relationship

Port-cities sinergy

Nowadays, It’s only possible to think of port cities that live from the synergy generated by the interaction of the two parties: an active port and a dynamic city. Constant dialogue and regular communication between the entities involved in the process are indispensable for a solid relationship, which must act as partners in the management of the territory, taking advantage of what will come from the exchanged experiences.

All the cities have something that distinguishes them from each other

Some cities had the privilege of being born as a port. In these cases, although its genesis is the port, they have gradually been witnessing the development and transformation of their partner, not always recognizing its value as an economy booster. On the other hand, through it´s economic value, the ports became "independent" from his home cities dynamics. That was manifested in many ways, such as management and territory development, in a complete distance from the surrounding city´s dynamic.

This phenomenon, which greatly contributed to a distance between the parties, also generated, over time, a struggle for the territory that was becoming available, as consequence of some decline in the activities of the ports, namely as a result from the transformations that occurred with the containerization. With this change came the reorganization of the port areas as well as the redefinition of the functions of the released areas.

Starting in the 1980s, some ports awoke to the need to convert their waterfront greyfields, especially those closer to urban centers and under strong pressure of the citizens, who always saw their access to the waterfront cut off. A little bit everywhere, the ports have seen the requalification of these areas, as a reaction to the systematic and widespread discomfort between ports and municipalities, for each claimed that conversion and programming were their competence.

Continuous territory interpretation

There are eleven municipalities bordering the port of Lisbon: Oeiras, Lisbon, Loures, Vila Franca de Xira, Benavente, Alcochete, Montijo, Moita, Barreiro, Seixal and Almada. This diversity, within the metropolitan area of Lisbon, gives Lisbon and its port originality in relation to other cases of port cities around the world. It is also under this assumption that everything becomes more complicated and at the same time challenging from the point of view of the relations between territory management entities.

It is important to reflect on these relationships and study it, in a way we can facilitate the construction of a territory without badly resolved or interrupted connections, that could result in true obstacles to the necessary fluidity of the urban-port fabric. The thin border between the city and the port is always the most difficult piece of territory. It is here that the greatest ruptures of continuity are verified, either in a level of surfaces (sidewalks, fences, signs, streets, etc.), or infrastructure. This continuous reading of the territory should interact and help each function fully perform its objectives, achieving a healthy sharing of uses between ports and Cities in-puts.

The beggining of transformation

The Port went through challenging times when it opened its doors to the city. This transformation was sometimes difficult and slow. After a bit of a refusal from the citizens to a first plan for the organization of the riverside area, a more punctual and meticulous work methodology was chosen, guided by an operation of "darning" of the territory. To give impetus to this important initiative and reinforce the intention of APL, Arq. Alcino Soutinho was invited as a consultant for the riverside fronts Planning, leaving marks of exceptional level of quality by developing projects such as the Riverside Walks of Junqueira, Alcântara and Cais do Sodré and the pedestrian overpasses connecting the city to the riverfront, always in communication with other entities and stakeholders.

In no time, the territory began to show signs of a frank opening towards the river and the people of Lisbon quickly appropriated the extensive sidewalks created and the restaurants with esplanades that appeared everywhere.

The first desire of those who finally manage to reach the river is to simply contemplate it. The second is to experience it and its surround activities. 
But the situation remained difficult to manage: it was possible to reach the riverside from innumerous points along the riverfront, but a continuous connection on footpaths without interruptions was still an issue to solve. This achievement came later when the connections between the seafront promenades and the introduction of a cycle path emerged. This was the fundamental element that gave coherence to a whole multifunctional route.

The ideal relationship in constant construction

The port, nestled in its perfectly demarcated areas, develops its activity attentive to the citizen that passes and peeks with curiosity to its interior to understand the importance of its presence as an engine of the economy of the Lisbon region, and at the same time they benefit of pleasant Seaside public spaces.

The port is paying attention to the needs of its citizens and has been actively collaborating in supporting the aspects of enjoying the river, gardens and roads in a sustainable investment on sustainable cohabitation.


Bike paths (mile)

1 124

Planted trees (by APL)


Public green areas (by APL) square yards