The Watch

Teatro Capitólio

Lisbon, Portugal
A Closer Look

Teatro Capitólio

2006 World Monuments Watch

An early Modernist structure designed by Portuguese architect Luís Cristino da Silva (1896-1976) and engineer José Belard da Fonseca (1889-1969), Teatro Capitólio opened in 1931 in Lisbon’s famed Parque Mayer theater district. The building featured numerous design and technical innovations, including a naturally lit performance hall and a roof terrace for outdoor film screenings, accessed by moving ramps. The design heralded a new age of architectural expression for Portugal while its construction made use of novel advances in technology. For these reasons it has been recognized as the first great building of the Modern movement in Portugal.

Although the building received national landmark status in 1983, over time it suffered from unsympathetic alterations and water damage that led to delamination of its concrete and stucco exterior. Closed to the public since the 1980s, in the early 2000s a plan to raze the theater and replace it with a new performing arts center was proposed. The plan spurred controversy and was ultimately abandoned, thanks largely to the work of a grassroots opposition movement, Citizens for Capitólio, which advocated for the restoration of the building. In order to support their effort to save this landmark, the building was included on the 2006 World Monuments Watch, drawing international attention to the plight of the structure.

Since the Watch

In 2009, the City Council of Lisbon approved a detailed plan to restore the Parque Mayer district and renovate the Teatro Capitólio. During the years that followed, built additions dating 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 repaired, including the floor-to-ceiling windows in the auditorium and the illuminated signage on the façade. The Teatro Capitólio finally reopened to the public in November 2016, equipped with up-to-date stage, sound, and screen technologies. EGEAC, the municipal company set up to manage cultural buildings and sites in Lisbon, will oversee the venue until a long-term plan for management and programming is agreed to.

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