Following on from my personal wander around Lisbon and the Mercado da Ribeira (Part One), and on the day after my keynote presentation on retail, consumption and urban governance (the overheads are here), the conference had its own ambulation around the city, focusing on the Avenida da Liberdade and the Chiado.
The Avenida is the grand boulevard heart of Lisbon and is a 19th century installation. The place to be seen and to see, it is in the grand tradition of such boulevards or avenues in Europe. As Lisbon moved up from the waterfront and the older core and Chiado, so the Avenida took on an enhanced role for living and playing.
Today’s Avenida is very different to its original conception, with sometimes grander buildings, certainly more traffic and a renewed focus as the place for luxury retailing. As the visuals below show, it is in part a calm space, in part a busy road. Grand buildings remain, but interspersed with more modern monstrosities. What were the planners (and architects) thinking? Luxury retailers abound, bit so too do the new ‘luxury’ fashion for the popular market. An Avenue of flagships.
The second part of the walk covered the older heart of Lisbon and especially the Chiado. Affected by fire and other disasters it continues to undergo change but is a vibrant tourist and to an extent local heart, full of stores, shops, restaurants, squares and generally places to interact. It feels much more personable and for people, than the Avenida, which was more for ostentatious display.
One pleasant discovery walking around was the continuing presence – though sometimes precarious – of old historical shops, including their interiors. This included apparently the world’s oldest bookstore, and possibly the world’s smallest glove shop. The slide show above and below shows external pictures of some of these and the modern re-use of some grand facades by current attractions, for example H&M and Apple.
The final stop of the day was an exhibition – Shops with a Story to Tell – which was another pleasant surprise. This historical shops exhibition both mourned those that had been lost and celebrated in pictures, stories and artifacts those that remain. Quite a few of these had been seen on the walking tour, but here their stories were told and modern photograpahs used to express their continuing value. A few of the pieces are shown below which showcase the interiors of some of the shops seen earlier.
The exhibition was interesting – especially for someone who loves old shops and places which seek to preserve them and their business. But, it perhaps was a little too ‘flat’, comprising the same approach to all the subjects. The opportunity to integrate the story of shops, places and Lisbon, and to reflect on the present and the value history brings, was a little missed.
In one thing though the exhibition was a great success. At the exit there was no gift shop (sorry, Banksy) but rather a collection of postcards with images used in the exhibition. On the back of each card was text giving opening dates, operating hours, addresses and directions to the shop, plus a map of those other historical stores nearby. In that way you could construct your own walking tour to the real things. A flavour of the imagery is presented below.
Wouldn’t it be good if we could we do the same for say Edinburgh or Glasgow or even smaller cities such as Perth or Stirling, or have we lost too much?