Portuguese Pavilion Alvaro Siza ArchEyes Expo exterior
Portuguese Pavilion Exterior | © Trevor Patt

The Portuguese Pavilion of 1998, designed by Alvaro Siza, was a prominent feature at the Lisbon Expo 98. Without competition, Siza was entrusted with realizing the main pavilion to represent Portugal and its history, commitment, and importance in the seas. The building was designed to be a permanent structure that would be utilized after the expo, although its specific purpose was not defined at the time. 

Portuguese Pavilion of 1998 Technical Information

I try to construct my buildings in a way that they will not be out of date tomorrow; that they will remain modern, or at least, not old-fashioned.

– Alvaro Siza

Portuguese Pavilion Photographs

Portuguese Pavilion Alvaro Siza ArchEyes Expo facade
Facade | © Trevor Patt
Portuguese Pavilion Alvaro Siza ArchEyes Expo patio
Roof Structure | © Trevor Patt
Portuguese Pavilion Alvaro Siza ArchEyes Expo roof
Roof Structure | © Trevor Patt
Portuguese Pavilion Alvaro Siza ArchEyes Expo interior
Tiles | © Trevor Patt

Concept and Inspiration Behind the Portuguese Pavilion of 1998

The location of the pavilion was on the shores of the Tagus River, in an area that was previously environmentally damaged and abandoned due to its proximity to polluting buildings, such as a weapons factory and an oil refinery.

The expo organizers aimed not only to reclaim the area but also to develop it and give it momentum. To achieve this, they created the new district Olivais, which would connect to the city through a new subway line, the Basque da Gama bridge, and a multimodal station designed by Santiago Calatrava. Siza requested that the pavilion be placed on the river, at the northwestern corner of the pier, instead of its original location at the other end of the park.

The concept behind the pavilion was to create a symbolic image that stood out for its simplicity and forcefulness, working in a pure rationalist language. According to Siza, the pavilion aimed to remind visitors that Portugal was a small country that contributed to the progress of civilization. The building’s design was influenced by Venetian buildings and their relationship to the water. The large pergola, shaped like a catenary curve, represents the sails of Portuguese ships, and the space’s natural light behaves like a large window to the sea.

The building consists of two distinct parts, linked through the large gazebo, a covered area of 3,900 square meters facing the ceremonial square. The building also includes an exhibition area of nearly 14,000 square meters, a reception area, and restaurants. The basement houses the service area, covering 4,500 square meters. The building’s modulated structure is approximately 70 x 90 meters, with a courtyard around which it is organized. An outdoor patio faces north, while a porch faces east, parallel to the dock. The building’s even distribution of space, combined with the strategic location of the vertical movement, allows great flexibility for subdivision, and natural lighting is ensured by the peripheral location of space and openness to the courts.

I could not use form in a free way, because I did not know what was going to be decided, […] The result in my opinion is interesting because it’s a very special half and a very almost banal second building side-by-side.

– Alvaro Siza Vieira

The structure of the building is reinforced concrete, and the space covered by the pergola is a thin reinforced concrete slab about 20 cm thick, painted white. Steel cables support the slab, which acts as armor, and two large blocks separate the slab, allowing light to enter between it and the porch. The portico is also reinforced concrete, covered with colorful tiles. The use of concrete reflects Siza’s preference for this material, and the colorful tiles give the building a touch of joyfulness while avoiding frivolity.

In conclusion, the Portuguese Pavilion of 1998, designed by Alvaro Siza, was an essential feature of the Lisbon Expo 98. The building’s design aimed to represent Portugal’s history and importance in the seas, reminding visitors of the country’s contributions to the progress of civilization. The pavilion’s modulated structure, natural lighting, and flexible subdivision make it a functional space that can adapt to various uses. Using concrete and colorful tiles gives the building a unique and joyful appearance, setting it apart from other structures in the area.

Portuguese Pavilion of 1998 Plans

Portuguese Pavilion Alvaro Siza ArchEyes Expo Second Floor building
Ground Floor | © Alvaro Siza
Portuguese Pavilion Alvaro Siza ArchEyes Expo Ground floor plan
Second Level | © Alvaro Siza
Portuguese Pavilion Alvaro Siza ArchEyes Expo section
Section of the Pavilion | © Alvaro Siza

About Alvaro Siza

Alvaro Siza is a renowned Portuguese architect, born on June 25, 1933, in Matosinhos, Portugal. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential architects of the 20th century, and his work is characterized by its simplicity, purity, and attention to detail. Siza’s projects range from small-scale residential buildings to large-scale public structures. He has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1992, which is widely considered the most prestigious award in the field of architecture. Siza’s designs are often characterized by using clean lines, geometric shapes, and integrating natural elements. He is known for his ability to create functional and aesthetically pleasing structures.

Works from Alvaro Siza