Belém Cultural Center in Belém

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The Belém Cultural Centre , located in the civil parish of Santa Maria de Belém (in the municipality of Lisbon), is the largest building with cultural facilities in Portugal. The CCB's 140,000 m² spaces was initially built to accommodate the European Presidency, but adapted to provide spaces for conferences, exhibitions and artistic venues (such as opera, ballet and symphony concerts), in addition to political and research congresses, high security meeting halls, and a 7,000 m² exhibition area.


The decision to construct the Cultural Centre of Belém occurred in January 1988, as part of the Portuguese government's need to construct a building to welcome and accommodate the people involved in Portugal's European Union Presidency (in 1992). The facility would also serve as a core facility for cultural and leisure activities after its term, and serve as a venue for conferences and exhibitions.

An international architectural competition was held and six proposals were invited to submit a preliminary project, out of the 57 submissions.

Starting in July 1989, the buildings along the waterfront were demolished and the many of the infrastructures were reestablished. By January 1992, modules 1, 2 and 3 were completed and ready to accommodate the institutions, administration, communication centre and security of the European Union Presidency. A year later the Conference Centre and small auditorium (March) and later the Exhibition Centre were opened to the public. By fall of the same year (September), the main auditorium was inaugurated.


The building is located in Santa Maria de Belém, near the riverfront west of Lisbon, between the dual Avenida da Índia-Avenida de Brasilia motorway and Rua Bartolomeu Dias. Each centre is separated by transversal “streets”, that link the building's interiors which are extensions of the city of Lisbon's historical urban structure.<ref name=SantanaMatos3/> The centrality of the main building extends the urban fabric to the interior creating a public space.<ref name=SantanaMatos3/> This architectural style can best be interpreted by Santana and Matos (2010) who refer to as the “patios-squares” versus the “narrow streets” a conflicting dynamic structure.<ref name=SantanaMatos3/>

With highly sophisticated equipment and a wide variety of installed services, it has several areas with different roles:

  • The Conference Centre, provides a close link with the most varied business and professional sectors; conceived in order to support conferences and meetings, as well as the CCB operational services, stores, a restaurant, two bars, parking areas and the Jacques Delors European Information Centre;<ref name=FerreiraCabello/>
  • The Performing Arts Centre, the core of the sites cultural and artistic activities, it includes two auditoriums (the larger holding 1429 seats and the smaller with 348 seats), rehearsal hall with 72 seats, in order to support film, opera, ballet, theatre and music events;<ref name=FerreiraCabello/>
  • The Exhibition Centre, which includes four galleries for exhibitions of modern art, architecture, design and photography, in addition to coffee and concessionary shops; it also, since June 2007, has been the venue for the Foundation of Modern and Contemporary Art (the Berardo Museum Collection);<ref name=FerreiraCabello/>
  • The Educational Area provides a close link between the Foundation and schools of various levels as well as other institutions;
  • The Formation Area is a service of the Belém Cultural Centre Foundation; courses, seminars and Conferences are directed towards teaching and learning, as well as the acquisition of further knowledge, skills and specialisation in the different areas of the arts, and culture.

The Belém Cultural Centre won the International Stone Architecture Award at the Verona Fair in 1993.

It has already hosted important events like the summit meeting of the Heads of State of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).


See also

  • List of concert halls