As a new generation of architects and designers take charge, Portugal’s ancient capital is emerging from a long deep freeze. On a recent Saturday afternoon, the broad Ribeira das Naus esplanade overflowed with Lisboans. At one end of the waterfront park, a kiosk did a brisk business in Super Bock beer and fried croquettes. Couples sat on a terraced limestone “beach” abutting the Tagus River, while joggers trailed dogs on a walkway above the water. Soaring wire sculptures towered over hulking stone benches, and stalky trees grew out of curious plastic planters. On landscaped lawns pitched toward the river, towels and blankets formed a mosaic of sunbathers; behind them, blinding-white houses and terra-cotta roofs dominoed up the hillsides. Later that evening, farther inland, a smartly dressed crowd filed into the Teatro Thalia for a violin concert, past four sphinxes guarding a neoclassical entrance of pale Lisbon limestone. The theater rose beyond it, a tawny concrete box wrapped on the ground level in black mirrored glass. Inside, the auditorium itself was enveloped by the ruins of an older structure: an irregular tumble of brick arches that surrounded the stage and the audience, like a crown held in place by reinforcing concrete. Five years ago, none of this existed. Teatro Thalia’s columns fronted the overgrown shell of the Count of Farrobo’s private opera theater, inaugurated in 1843 and left to molder after a fire destroyed the building 20 years later. Along the riverfront, trash littered the rocky coastline. Such scenes of rot and ruin were hardly unique: The city council estimates that 12,000 of Lisbon’s buildings—roughly 20 percent—sit in varying stages of decay. But not for long – read why in Julia Cooke’s good and encouraging story about Lisbon’s physical past, present and especially future condition in our favorite Travel media Conde Nast Traveler
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