20 years ago today, as the Portuguese capital was preparing to open Expo 1998, Gare do Oriente was inaugurated. At the core of the redevelopment of Lisbon’s eastern neighbourhood, the opening of the ultra-modernist train station on 19 May 1998 was a milestone for Portuguese architecture and one of the final steps in the preparation of Expo 1998, which welcomed its first visitors only three days later.
For the millions of visitors coming to Lisbon for the first time to visit the Expo, the new station, designed by celebrated Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, was a bright and modern point of arrival.
Formal planning for pre-Expo construction and post-Expo use of the site in Lisbon is notable for its close attention to long-term use of the site. The layout of the Expo site for Lisbon related in many ways to the vision for the larger metropolitan area. Overarching goals focused on an integrated development that was multi-use and accessible to the wider urban area. The Expo was viewed as a tool for urban regeneration at the metropolitan scale.
Expo 1998 Lisbon distinguishes itself from previous Expos by careful attention to detail at the site. Exhibits that illustrated the concept of sustainability and emphasised the need to preserve the oceans for future generation were part of many pavilions. Water was reflected throughout the site and from a design standpoint was well-integrated into the public space of the Expo.
Celebrating the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India, Expo 1998 was a transformational event for Lisbon, gathering over 10 million visitors under the theme “Oceans – A Heritage for the Future”. The Expo was a key moment not only for its journey into the theme, but also for the urban redevelopment it propelled, leaving Lisbon with a brand new district in the form of Parque das Nações. Twenty years after the event, In Focus publishes a three-part series by Laura Huntoon, originally published on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the BIE, looking back at the innovative and sustainable ways in which the Expo was organised, and how its programming addressed a key theme of the time.
On 29 March 1998, the Vasco da Gama bridge was opened in the Portuguese capital, marking a key step in the modernisation of Lisbon as it geared up to host Expo 1998. Named after Vasco da Gama, who 500 years earlier became the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa, the 17km structure celebrates today its 20th anniversary.
The bridge was officially inaugurated by President Jorge Sampaio in a ceremony marked by a military band and flyover, following an earlier event in which 16,000 Lisboetas gathered on a 5km section of the bridge to have lunch at the “world’s longest dining table.”