Site History and Significance
Outstanding Examples of Modernist Architecture
From the outset of the authoritarian Estado Novo regime (1933–1974) in Portugal, art and architecture became vehicles of propaganda for the state. Lisbon received significant investment in its development and modernization, making it the physical symbol of state doctrine and ideology with largescale nationalist projects. The Maritime Stations of Alcântara and Rocha do Conde d'Óbidos, designed by the architect Porfírio Pardal Monteiro (1897–1957) as part of a major urbanization plan, are one of the most outstanding examples of modernist architecture of the era.
José de Almada Negreiros
As part of the project, the artist José de Almada Negreiros (1893–1970) was commissioned to create 14 mural paintings showcasing the greatness of the Portuguese nation and its numerous achievements to all those passing through the port.
Born in São Tomé and Príncipe to a São Tomean mother and Portuguese father, Almada excelled as a self-taught modernist artist, communicating his creative and subversive spirit through multiple artistic expressions. After living in Paris, Almada and his wife, the artist Sarah Affonso (1899–1983), became central figures of the Portuguese intellectual and artistic society of the twentieth century. Almada cofounded Orpheu magazine, a manifesto of modernist aesthetics created by a group of young Portuguese intellectuals, including the renowned poet Fernando Pessoa, who later became known as the Orpheu Generation.
A Controversial Masterpiece
Despite the instructions of Almada’s commission at the Maritime Stations of Lisbon, the murals he painted depict diverse narratives associated with maritime trade, emigration, communities of African descent (a subject of personal importance to Almada), and the daily activities of the communities at the port. Integrating the vivid colors and angularity of the Cubist and Futurist movements that inspired him, the murals are masterpieces in composition and storytelling but were considered provocative by the regime since they highlighted the history of Portuguese migration and associated struggle. Indeed, the paintings of the Rocha do Conde d'Óbidos building were so controversial that they were almost destroyed by the state.
2022 World Monuments Watch
Inclusion of the stations and their murals on the 2022 World Monuments Watch draws attention to unique heritage that represents a key moment in the modern history of Portugal and, more specifically, Lisbon. The structures and their artwork simultaneously reflect the nationalist, orderly vision of one of Europe’s longest-surviving authoritarian regimes and the struggle and resilience of the Portuguese people as depicted by one of Portugal’s most influential artists. World Monuments Fund aims to support the Port of Lisbon Administration in the conservation of the murals and the rehabilitation of the underused structures that once served as the maritime gateway to Lisbon. Revitalizing this portion of the port will help ensure that this under-recognized heritage and the important narratives associated with it continue to tell the story of Portugal’s past and inspire the future.
Through the World Monuments Watch, WMF collaborates with local partners to design and implement targeted conservation programs—including advocacy, planning, education, and physical interventions in the historic built environment—to improve human well-being through cultural heritage preservation.
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