Who's Your City?, by Richard Florida
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Archive for the ‘Lisbon’ Category

Lisbon

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Lisbon, in Portugal, is the most western capital of Europe. Lisbon opens the way to the Tagus river and extends its ancient core through seven hills which testify several centuries of history. The Roman Empire, in the 1st century AD, has baptize the city with the name Olisipo. Over this legacy, the medieval city expanded after 1147, when D. Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, conquered the territory to the Moors.

Despite the construction of a Christian new town, there are many influences, still visible today, of the Arabian presence, specially in Alfama neighborhood where we can walk in the twisting and narrow streets and alleys, similar to the characteristic North African cities. The successive generations incremented and overlapped to the dynamic of the city their existence and their architecture, creating a patchwork of lives and styles that complement or clash their selves…

The downtown was strongly modified by a disaster – the earthquake of 1755. In seconds, the reality of the neuralgic center of the city has been substituted – through the strong personality of the Marquês de Pombal, the first minister – by the one of the most important urban plans of Europe of the 18th century and a symbol of modernity and rationality. In the north of the city, emerged the urban tissue of the 19th century through the construction of the Avenida da Liberdade, a large avenue inspired in the Parisians boulevards. From Belém, in the west limit of the city, departed the Tagus river, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the flagships discovering the unknown world – Brazil, India, Angola, Mozambique, Ceylon, Japan…

Who is my City today? Like in other cities, there is a good side and a bad side. Lisbon ia a metropolis, aggregating a process of conurbation but, at the same time, is a cozy and a humanized city. In the historical area there is a mix of sun, light and poetry. The old buildings surround the “mother-hills” conferring organic forms. It appears that buildings have born of the hills. However, time and uncontrolled edification (sometimes chaotic) of the new urban and suburban areas, are the main factors of the abandon, the degradation and the aging of the ancient tissue. Urban rehabilitation is a recent political option and is beginning its first steps. But Lisbon is still beautiful. Joining the undulating skyline, the sun light gives to the city a powerful game of shadows and a nostalgic color. It re minds me a poem for music of Saudade, an untranslatable Portuguese word that means to miss someone or something. That music exists and is called Fado: played in every picturesque corner, it symbolizes the nostalgic feelings. Lisbon and Fado merge in a unique identity.

Sent by Sofia from Lisbon