An early Modernist structure designed by the Portuguese architect Luis Cristino da Silva and Jose Belard da Fonseca, the Teatro Capitólio opened in 1931 in Lisbon’s famed Parque Mayer theatre district. The building features numerous design and technical innovations, including a naturally lit performance hall and a roof terrace accessed by moving ramps for outdoor film screenings. Although the Teatro Capitólio is a nationally recognized landmark, it has been closed to the public since the 1980s and has since suffered unsympathetic alterations, water ingress, and delamination of its concrete and stucco exterior. Plans to raze the theater and replace it with a new performing arts center have recently been abandoned thanks largely to the work of a grassroots opposition movement, Citizens for Capitólio, which advocated for the restoration of the theater. The group nominated the site to the 2006 Watch, which drew international attention to the plight of the structure. Their aim is to restore the structure and use the project as a model for conserving other Modernism structures in Portugal. In 2009, the City Council of Lisbon announced a detailed plan to restore the Parque Mayer district and renovate the Teatro Capitólio. The first phase of the project to restore the Teatro Capitólio recently began.
The Teatro Capitólio’s visionary design heralded a new age of architectural expression for Portuguese architecture. Its construction made unprecedented advances in engineering technology, and is recognized as the first great Modern Movement building in Portugal. The Teatro Capitólio is an invaluable part of the country’s Modernist heritage and its history of cinema.
Since the Watch
During the four-year period of transformative refurbishment, built additions from recent decades were disassembled; asbestos and other hazards were removed from the interior; and unsafe parts of the structure were stabilized. Signature features of the original building were retained and repaired, for example the floor-to-ceiling windows in the auditorium and the illuminated signage on the façade. Citizens for Capitólio has remained active and involved over the course of the project, and, in March 2014, the group visited the site to observe the final stages of the renovation. The historic Teatro Capitólio is scheduled to welcome audiences once again in late 2014, now equipped with up-to-date stage, sound, and screen technologies. May 2014