On the 21st of April, the Central Bank of Portugal, together with GECoRPA – A business organization dedicated to heritage, and ICOMOS – International Council on Monuments and Sites, held a full-day conference about the future of the Baixa Pombalina, the historical downtown of Lisboa, as a potential UNESCO world heritage site. The application process seems to be stuck in the meanders of political maneuvers and no one has the full picture as to what is actually going on. The conference’s mission was to put everything in evidence and in perspective to everyone involved directly or indirectly in this process. The contributions ranged from engineering and architectural specialists, showing studies and successful architecture designs, but also representatives from the political arena and historians and thinkers with some degree of knowledge about the matter at hand.
The core value of the Baixa Pombalina is that it was a landmark in the world’s urban design. It was a exemplary masterplan in the broader sense of the word, as it solved the housing problem for countless victims of the 1755 earthquake, managed to bring Lisboa’s center to the state-of-the-art cities club with a seismic-resistant prefab architecture design, established the terms for the city’s growth for centuries to come, and was planned with financial and political mechanisms that enabled it to be built and to endure for ages to come.
While the final goal – the application to take the Baixa Pombalina to the UNESCO council – remains fuzzy and distant, and in the hands of far too many variables (such as political shifts and economic winds of change), the gains to be had were a full grasp of the complexity of the matter to everyone present. A lot of students were there alongside professionals and bureaucrats, and it is possible that some of them might have something to say in the future on this matter.
There was still time for a quick tour to the future Museu do Dinheiro. Fitting for a building owned by the Central Bank of Portugal, except that the building is actually a former church in the heart of the Baixa Pombalina. Any conspiracy theorists out there?