Architecture and Democracy: the impact of the April 25th in Portugal on the landscape

The Revolução dos Cravos on April 25th, which we celebrate 50 years this year, marked the end of decades of dictatorship in Portugal under the Estado Novo regime and the beginning of a new era of democracy and freedom.

In this article, we will explore the architectural legacy of the Estado Novo and how this political transition influenced Portuguese architecture and shaped the country’s urban landscape.


Architecture in the Estado Novo


During the Estado Novo period (1933-1974), Portugal’s architecture reflected the regime’s aesthetic and ideological principles. Playing a fundamental role in promoting authoritarian ideology, it was characterized by a monumental and grand aesthetic and celebrated nationalism, tradition and state power, with imposing public buildings and monuments that glorified the history and values of the regime.

Public buildings and monuments constructed during this period were often designed to be majestic and inspiring, conveying a sense of authority, as is the case, for example, with the Palácio de São Bento, the seat of the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic.

However, the regime’s vision extended beyond grand buildings. It invested in infrastructure and large-scale projects like the Estádio Nacional do Jamor, a robust structure designed to host major sporting events, instilling a sense of national pride. Similarly, the 25 de Abril Bridge, originally named the Salazar Bridge, represents the regime’s values and priorities, evoking a sense of admiration for its architectural significance.


Ponte 25 de Abril

April 25th and the paradigm shift in national architecture


With the Revolução dos Cravos and the establishment of democracy in Portugal, there was a significant rupture in the country’s social, political and cultural paradigms. This change, in addition to renaming and attributing new meanings to many of the works (as is the case of the 25 de Abril Bridge), was also reflected in the architecture, which underwent a profound transformation and allowed for a greater diversity of expression, with a more significant influence international trends and through new ways of representing the identity and aspirations of Portuguese society.

Architecture began to reflect emerging democratic values, prioritizing citizen participation and social inclusion: public spaces were revitalized, new cultural centres were created, and historic buildings were adapted for new uses, promoting the diversity and vitality of cities.

Examples of this are:

the Bairro da Bouça in Porto and the Quinta da Malagueira housing complex in Évora, designed by architect Siza Vieira, constitute notable examples of social housing. The project in Porto prioritized the involvement of residents in the design of spaces, promoting a participatory and community approach to urban design;

collective housing neighbourhoods in Lisbon to meet the demand for affordable housing and to create diverse and integrated communities, in contrast to the social segregation that was common during the Estado Novo;

Almada Municipal Library, a testament to modern Portuguese architecture from the 70s, is a striking example of the spirit of renewal that accompanied the post-25th of April period. Its bold geometry and innovative use of materials are a reflection of this;

construction of regional cultural centres in several Portuguese cities, such as the Cascais Cultural Center, accessible to all citizens and dedicated to the promotion of art, culture and education;

Bairro da Bouça. Fonte: Archdaily

April 25th represented a crucial turning point in the history of Portuguese architecture. In addition to marking a stylistic shift, the revolution catalyzed a profound transformation in the relationship between architecture, society and historical memory. The fall of the Estado Novo allowed Portuguese architects to explore new techniques, materials and forms, which led to a series of innovative and contemporary projects that challenged traditional conventions and contributed to a unique architectural identity on the international scene.

Architecture also became a tool for remembering and reflecting on the past while building a more inclusive, democratic, and progressive future vision.

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