The “Expo” and the post - “Expo”. The role of public art in urban regeneration’s processes at the end of 20th century

The “Expo” and the post - “Expo”. The role of public art in urban regeneration’s processes at the end of 20th century

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In 1998, the Lisbon Universal Exhibition – Expo'98 – led to an urban regeneration operation on Lisbon's eastern riverfront. Following the international tendency, this event was a pretext to replace an urban fabric that was greatly degraded at the time, and to re-connect the Tagus River with the city, through the creation of new public spaces. For these spaces, it was promoted a public art program, which can be considered quite innovative in the Portuguese context, mainly because it asked for interventions that would generate physical, visual, symbolic and experiential relationships with the place.
Although most of the implemented public art solutions didn’t achieve those objectives, the process had the merit of intensifying the discussion both about art and public space, and the valuing of the waterfront spaces in the city. At the same time, it drove a monumentalisation of the east riverfront, that started in this area, but that was expanded to other contexts. Therefore, it interesting to observe the increase of artistic interventions throughout the city, in the following years.
In this framework, the proposed communication aims to analyse the relations between public art and the dynamics of urban regeneration at the end of the 20th century, from the case of Lisbon. It proposes 3 moments:
First, it will observe the Expo'98’s public art program, comparing its initial assumptions with the final results;
Secondly, it will focus on the impacts of this program, through the analysis of public art’s placements in the following decade (1999-2009);
Finally, it will analyse public art at the light of the dynamics of the waterfronts’ openings, revealing the spaces that were "conquered" to the port. It is concluded that public art has a significant role in urban policies at the end of the last century. This is quite evident in a discourse that considers public art as a qualifying factor of urban space, even as a mean of economic and social development of the cities.

Corresponding Author

Rita Ochoa


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Rita Ochoa


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Preferred Track

8. The role of artists and urban art

Second Preferred Track

3. Terrain vague redevelopments

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