Lisbon opens debate on the construction of new Jewish museum

 In Development, Museums & Cultural Developments, News

By Natasha Donn

Lisbon City Council has approved a public debate on the project to build a Jewish Museum in Belém –initially scheduled to be ready by this year.

In a private meeting of the municipal executive, the proposal to “approve the exceptional interest of the intervention” of the Lisbon Jewish Museum project and “promote a public debate” was “unanimously” approved, an official source has told Lusa.

The proposal was initially scheduled for last Monday’s meeting, but the discussion and vote were postponed at the request of the PS because they needed time to analyse it.

Signed by councillor for urbanism Joana Almeida – an independent elected by the “Novos Tempos” PSD/CDS-PP/MPT/PPM/Aliança coalition- the proposal states that on April 14 2023, the Haggadah Association submitted to Lisbon City Council for consideration the licensing of the construction work for the museum, based on the promissory contract for the constitution of a surface right on a piece of municipal land with a total area of 6,678.32 sq m, bordering Rua de Pedrouços and Rua da Praia do Bom Sucesso to the north and Avenida da Índia and Rua Fernão Mendes Pinto to the south, in the parish of Belém.

In this context, Ms Almeida proposes that the council “decides that the urban development operation is of exceptional importance to the city, and that public debate should be promoted, under the terms of Article 18(2)(b) of the Municipal Master Plan regulations”.

This paragraph states that in the riverfront subsystem “new buildings and extensions on streets that form an angle equal to or less than 45 degrees with the river bank must respect the pre-existing visual boundaries to be maintained and may not constitute continuous frontages of more than 50 metres, except for urban interventions whose programme is not compatible with these requirements, if the city council considers them to be of exceptional importance to the city, in which case a public debate must be held”.
In December 2020, the municipal executive, chaired by the PS, approved the construction of the museum and the consequent revocation of the installation of a museum in Alfama – a location that had been contested by residents.
Thus this new meeting, chaired by Carlos Moedas (PSD), will discuss the project to licence the construction.
As part of today’s meeting, Joana Almeida said project will be subject to public consultation for a period of 30 days.
There will also be a public presentation of the project in the parish of Belém (on a date yet to be specified).
According to the proposal by the PSD/CDS-PP leadership, the Jewish Museum aims to contribute to the “wide dissemination, in Portugal and around the world, of the importance of the Jewish community and its cultural expressions for the historical formation of the city of Lisbon and Portuguese cultural identity” – as part of one of the measures in the Major Planning Options for the City of Lisbon 2021|2025, namely Axis D – Affirm Lisbon as a Global City | City of Culture and Openness.

The proposed building has an implantation area of 2,000 m2 and “a construction area of 6,055.64 m2, in the east-west direction, with a continuous front of more than 50 metres, with a length of around 80 metres” and provides for the requalification of the surrounding area in terms of infrastructures and green spaces, according to the document to which Lusa had access.

“Considering the character and location of the intervention, given its special programme and specific requirements, the proposal has a legal framework in the PDM regulations if the city council considers it to be of exceptional importance for the city and promotes ‘public debate’,” the proposal adds.

Relevant public bodies and municipal services have already been consulted. The Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage, for example, has issued an opinion of approval “conditional on the submission of the execution project, exclusively with regard to the roof areas, reiterating archaeological constraints”.

Currently, the council’s executive, which is made up of 17 members, includes seven elected members from the “Novos Tempos” coalition (PSD/CDS-PP/MPT/PPM/Aliança) – the only ones with assigned portfolios – three from the PS, two from the PCP, three from the CPL, one from Livre and one from the BE.

In other words, the council’s executive does not have a working majority.
According to the architects’ description of the museum, it will look out onto the 16th-century Tower of Belém and Tagus river.

Source material: LUSA