If I have given the impression that Lisbon is just lots of historic buildings and stone tiled pavements, welcome to Oriente station. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, using concrete, steel and glass, the station was built to provide access to the site of the 1998 World Fair. It combines, bus, metro and train stations, providing connections to the whole of Portugal. It’s one of the largest stations in the world, handling 75 million passengers a year.
The upper train platforms are covered with a glass roof, supported by columns designed to resemble trees.
The station is the stop for the district of Parque das Nações, previously an industrial area which was chosen as the site for Expo’98, the international World Fair. The entire area along the waterfront was rebuilt, becoming one of the biggest urban redevelopment projects in Europe. When the exhibition ended the area was renamed Parque das Nações, (Park of Nations).
There is a diverse range of contemporary public art here, from the huge, painted tile panels that greet one at the metro station, to pieces dotted all over the area. I came across statues of humans, not all of a recognisable form like ‘Homem Sol’; a giraffe; and naked women, made of marble, bathing in a pool.
The theme of the 1998 World Fair was the world’s oceans, so water features prominently here, as in the Pavilhão do Conhecimento, a museum of science and technology, and the Vulcões de Água, six, four meter high volcano shaped fountains dotted along narrow canals.
Gardens also have a water theme.
This is where the Eurovision Song contest is being held, when I visited, it was all fenced off as work was being done to prepare the site for this week. The grey space ship looking building in the photo below is the Altice Arena, where the contest will take place. A cable car glides along the riverside for aerial views of the park.
The area by the river is pedestrianised, a walk here will take one past the Vasco da Gama Tower, the tallest building here, through landscaped gardens and to the bridge.
The Ponte Vasco de Gama is Europe’s longest bridge, 17 Kilometres, named after Vasco de Gama who was the first European to reach India by sea. The bridge was part of the redevelopment work for the 1998 exhibition, 1998 was the 500th anniversary of de Gamas discovery of India.
A final word on the Eurovision Song Contest, which has brought an additional 100,000 people into the city. The Praça do Comércio in the city centre has been turned into a ‘Eurovision Village’, with screens provided to watch the semi-finals and finals for people without tickets to the main venue, and entertainment provided every night of this week, as part of the build up to the big final on Saturday.