The MAAT museum of art, architecture and technology, opened in 2016, soon became one of the greatest attractions in Lisbon, according to Amanda Levete, the British architect that designed the building. “We wanted a space where people could come, not only to a museum, but to an area of public spaces, where people could meet, in this era of remote communication. This is more important than the buildings themselves”. What we can say today is that this purpose was fully achieved.

The challenge was to make the museum relate simultaneously with the river and the city, maintaining the privileged view and unique light of the spot, close to where the old power plant, nearly 100 years old and now hosting the Electricity Museum, stands. What was asked from the architect was to draw a building that went unnoticed, unlike other recent buildings in the same area that opted for geometries in stark contrast with the water line and clashing with this waterfront area of the city, this despite the temptation of having seven thousand meters available area to design a museum by the river in a European capital.

 “The idea is for it to look like the landscape, leaving the view over the city and the river unhindered". – says Amanda Levete.

The volumes required to host the museum were achieved through topography: instead of rising upwards, the main gallery lies underground, below the water line which is just 10 metres away. This achieved the connection with the city, but more was done to reinforce it, namely the installation of a footbridge in the form of a boomerang linking the waterfront with the city, subtly overcoming the limitations exerted by the railway line, which severs the river bank and the Atlantic coastline from the land, all the way to Cascais.

Another attraction of the building is its relationship with light. The entire façade is clad in three dimensional tiles, “a kind of shiny scales” that reflect sunlight, giving the building different colour shades according to the time of day and the season of the year. The use of traditional materials adds to the building’s distinctiveness: lioz limestone was used in the entry and in the banisters inside and in the terrace, and tiles were used for the façade. The overhanging roof is sustained by a tube, rather than by the customary columns.

From the terrace, the view over the river gives one the impression of standing on a ship’s deck, as all you can see is water (the land is hidden by the overhanding roof). This place alone is worth a visit, attracting crowds that come here to visit the exhibitions or not, and reminding us of the impact of architecture on the quality of life of the community.

We suggest a visit to the museum followed by a visit to the terrace. If you come at sunset, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience. The space is accessible 24 hours a day.

Welcome to Lisbon, Pedro Mata

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