How down-at-heel Lisbon became the new capital of cool

Four years ago, Portugals capital felt like a city on its knees. Now it is being touted as hip, cheap and innovative. But is the socialist government miscarrying Lisbons poor in its hurry to revitalise?

In Lisbon people keep telling me about the surfing. Its great. The beaches are 20 times from the beautiful, historic and lively regional centres for Lisbon. You get the best of everything: Bondi gratifies old Europe. I hear this from Patrick, a Kentuckian whose digital marketing business was formerly are stationed in Costa Rica and at another time in Bali; from Matthieu, a French life coach-and-four; and from Tariq, a British property expert. I hear it from the Yorkshire-raised, London-based Rohan Silva, whom the British press likes to describe as a tech scenester or techpreneur, and from Joo Vasconcelos, Portugals suave secretary of state for industry.

Until lately, most of the report coming out of Portugal was of what Vasconcelos calls the worst crisis in 100 times, with stories of professionals sleeping in their autoes because theyd been evicted from their residences. On my last visit, for the architecture triennale in 2013, an occurrence full of ingenious low-cost minds for resurrecting empty spaces and striving businesses, Lisbon felt like a town on its knees. Now, according to one of the 2013 triennales organisers, Mariana Pestana, theres a psychological progress. People are starting to daydream again, theyre starting to consume again. Economic change is no longer something that happens to us. There is some command. There are also early outbreaks of the number of complaints that come with urban success, rising property prices and loss of character.

Lisbon is becoming an outstanding example of what might be called Monocle urbanism, after the publication that integrates trendspotting and lifestyle admonition with social and political commentary, and which lately dedicated many pages to the Portuguese capital. For the sophisticated nomads that Silva calls the global creative class, Lisbons attractions are powerful. According to Vasconcelos, the big cosmopolitan cities of the world are more like one another, such that center London and center Lisbon are closer to each other than London is to the Brexit-voting regions of Britain.( Theorist of the liberal metropolitan elite will take note .) For the first time since the 1940 s, when Lisbon was a refuge from the campaign, articulates Pestana, the city is actually cosmopolitan.

Take Patrick Tigue of Downtown Ecommerce, the American who was formerly in Costa Rica. He has patrons all over the world, from the US to Australia, some of whom he doesnt gratify for years, if ever. Our business started to grow, and we had a problem scaling up, this is why we opened up a map and wrote down a bunch of metropolis. They had business criteria access to English orators, low cost of living, low-grade wages, a convenient hour zone and personal predilections: surfing, good weather. Berlin and Barcelona were good from the labour force perspective, but the lifestyle in Lisbon did it.

In Lisbon, he goes on, the people are extraordinary. There is always some type of music, style, artworks going on. The food is incredible, the architecture Its a big little metropoli. The real estate you feel its coming up. It was quite a gamble. I came here last year for a vacation but it was transformed into an extended stay and then into moving here permanently. Id like to stay here for the long term, to have kids here. I am that convinced.

Manifestations of the new Lisbon include reincarnations of locations first created to serve tech businesses in London. One is Village Underground, component creative community, component artworks venue, which aims to combine affordable workspaces with artistry, music and concert. In London its distinguished by four recycled Tube carriages perched in the air. In Lisbon it consists of a piling of shipping receptacles and repurposed double-decker bus, on a dramatic spot next to the citys suspension bridge.

Patrick Tigue of Downtown Ecommerce in his Lisbon office: The lifestyle in Lisbon did it.

Another is Second Home, a shared workspace created by Silva and his business collaborator, Sam Aldenton, an enclave where industrious tech businesses can get in touch with their inner lotus-eater. In Lisbon, as in London, the Spanish architects Selgas Cano have been commissioned to design an internal garden-variety of pleasures, with abundant foliage, subtly clashing colourings and playful details, merely less frenetic in the recently-opened Portuguese version: the main space is a single greenhouse-like room, with its national territory of different corporations defined by plants.

A programme of culture, social and sensual occurrences a wine-tasting, a literary store, an introduced by hydroponics is designed to engage and delight the members. A cafe painted deep blue-blooded provides both them and any of the general public who wish to enterprise in.

Second Home opens off Time Out Market, in the historic Mercado da Ribeira, that describes itself as an original theory that creates food and cultural rights suffers based on editorial curation. The suggestion is to translate into physical room the knowledge of the journalists of the eponymous indices publication, to house the best restaurants and artists the best of the city under one roof. It opened in 2014 , now attracts two million guests a year, and has inspired another Time Out Market, planned for London later this year.

Lisbon also has Vhils, a young street artist described to me as a cross between Banksy and Damien Hirst, already embraced by government-backed artistry jobs and firms like the energy monster EDP.( Which, it must be said, seems to go against the bottom-up ethos that is supposed to be the point of street artistry .)

These high-concept and somewhat Anglophile initiatives are laid upon a town of old-fashioned dignity, of arcades and ocean breezes, of the yellowish, timber-lined streetcars that get into the sightseer depicts, of classical facades maintaining their equilibrium over steep slopes, of yummy cake shops and family-owned seafood restaurants.

Lisbon is also a city that are responsive to economic crisis with resourcefulness and imagery. Behind an anonymous and battered doorway, for example, can be found a Cozinha Popular( folks kitchen) founded by a food writer called Adriana Freire. It is a serene room in different districts of Mouraria. where people who had fallen on hard time make exceptional snacks for the pleasure and welfare of these communities. Out of it has rotated Muita Fruta, a project to transform Lisbon into a big farm. It started with mapping the citys subsisting fruit trees, helping their owners to get the best out of them, harvesting their fruit and shaping jam. The programme is to expand the project by planting new fruit trees, in collaboration with the city government, wherever room can be found.

Tech businesses commune with their inner lotus-eater at Second Home, a shared workspace was established in Lisbon by Rohan Silva and Sam Aldenton. Photograph: Iwan Baan

Contemporary Lisbon, then, blends the approvals of history and nature with the entrepreneurial actions of both neighbourhoods and outsiders. It is still cheap. Charlie Orford, British co-founder of flight-booking website Low-grade Cost Hero, took a quick look at London and immediately threw it in the bin. His Lisbon room rates less than 12 th of its equivalent in London. For reasons like this, combined now with Brexit, Lisbon is especially attractive to young, creative refugees from the British capital.

Vasconcelos rosters other assets: it is one of the safest metropolis in the world, even during the course of its crisis. It is liberal and open: we look like southern Europe, yes, but we are not the stereotype of southern Europe conservative, Catholic thats completely wrong. In many things we are more like the UK than Spain. Gay marriage, homosexual approval, theres not its consideration of the item we are one of the two countries receiving more refugees. Again, theres not a discussion.

Portugal is also, he articulates, a common-sense culture, extremely respectful. If you think Latin blood is very aggressive, you are wrong.

Its a simple enough suggestion if you are able pinpoint yourself pretty much anywhere, why not in a really nice region “hes also” affordable and greeting? but it doesnt happen strictly by luck. Even more exotically, as Silva throws it, theres a socialist government thats very popular but pro-enterprise. Lisbons new identity has been willed into being by government, especially by Antnio Costa, formerly mayor of the town and now prime minister of Portugal.

Costa came to power promising economic rise combined with aid from the most difficult soreness of austerity. You can have several the different types of austerity, says his rector, Vasconcelos. It can impact on the most fragile or on “the worlds largest” strong, on corporations or proletarians, old or young. What were trying to prove is that you can be serious and can achieve a good public deficiency as we are currently, our best ever while at the same hour promoting entrepreneurship and science.

Food writer Adriana Freire, left, sells jam made from the citys fruit trees via her Muita Fruta project.

As mayor, Costa swept aside bureaucratic obstructions, spurred creative and tech entrepreneurs and boosted tourism. He constructed it easier to open businesses or inns in historic constructs. He set up programmes designed to teaching schoolchildren and the unemployed how to code. He developed Startup Lisboa in the then moribund regional centres for the city, a region where newcomer businesses could find their paws, run by now-minister Vasconcelos. He was helped by the dynamic Graa Fonseca , now secretary of state for modernisation, then in charge of a department of entrepreneurship.

Mariana Duarte Silva, the woman who delivered Village Underground to Lisbon, says that Costa is a little bit of an annoying optimist, but I think that helps.

Lisbons resurgence has also been helped by some not-especially-socialist motivations, such as the Golden Visa, which makes rights of residency to anyone buying property merit more than 500,000. Many are attracted by its levy government, especially the highly-taxed French. It has also welcomed the not-especially-socialist Airbnb and Uber. The taxi motorists complained for a period, articulates Vasconcelos a contact dismissively, but that was all.

If the vigour and vitality of the new Lisbon are genuine, the Costa renaissance is not without doubters. Ana Jara and Lucinda Correia, of the architects Arteria, are engaged in the sort of low-cost ingenious interventions “thats been” ascertained at the 2013 Triennial: shaping new and good-looking signs to draw attention to long-established businesses, and devising a strategy for shaping beneficial employ out of the underused rooftops of Lisbon apartment building. Initially they were pleased by the revival of the city but now they realize residents and businesses being pushed out by rising prices.

People are playing the game of Monopoly. “theyre saying”. You buy houses and you build hotels.

Banksy gratifies Damien Hirst in street artistry by the Portuguese artist Alexandre Farto, known by the label identify Vhils. Photograph: Alamy

The Golden Visa is the worst thing. It makes it possible for someone to buy a huge property but it induces social exclusion. It articulates, if I have the money I have the right to be here. This is not managing the city in a smart space. In the medium-to-long-run, you lose identity, people will not be shaping or producing any more.

They say that a bastardised shape of Portuguese cuisine is being sold to tourists, and that Costas relaxing of planning governs is leading to faadism, whereby merely the shells of historic constructs are retained.

A short cinema, Youll Soon Be Here , has been made to chronicle the effects of tourism on Mouraria, the marginal, multicultural and poor downtown region where, among other things, Freires Cozinha Popular is pinpointed. A campaign has been set up, Morar Em Lisboa( To live in Lisbon) to oppose displacement. Even a Costa admirer like Mariana Duarte Silva of Village Underground articulates: People are being chucked out of their homes and traditional stores are being closed. But the prime minister is very conscious of it.

It would also be a loss if the identity of Lisbon, a town rich in things subtle, graceful and well made from food to artefacts to constructs is inundated in a deluge of branded, curated, confected, marketed suffers, if the stuff that is good and already there is repackaged and resold.

Lisbon has an aptitude for simulating other metropolis. Its suspension bridge is much like the Golden Gate in San Francisco, and it has a statue of Christ reminiscent of Rios. Many of the latest interventions are London-inspired. Its breathier boosters now say it could generate a countercultural vigour like the one that San Francisco converted into the wealth of Silicon Valley. Northern Europeans like to retire here too, which would make it a sort of Miami.

Now it resembles a speeded-up east London, moving rapidly through the gears of dereliction, artistic rehabilitation, entrepreneurial activity, rising prices and gentrification.

Its a cause for celebration that a great old metropoli, down on its luck, should find a new life, but the really smart thing for Lisbon and their own government would be to work better than metropolis that have gone this space before: to achieve verve while at the same time encouraging the things that stir the city so appealing in the first place.

See this: landmark of the new Lisbon

The Time Out Market, in the historic Mercado da Ribeira, offers food and cultural rights suffers based on editorial curation. Photograph: Alamy

MAAT The sweeping new riverside gallery designed by Amanda Levete for the artistry foundation of the energy monster EDP.

EDP HQ EDP has also commissioned architecturally ambitious headquarters by the Portuguese practice Aires Mateus, designed to welcome the public at least some of the space into its complex.

Cozinha Popular da Mouraria A popular kitchen created in response to the economic crisis.

Time Out Market An ensemble of food shops and restaurants, a region for street food that should have a Michelin star.

Leopold A restaurant where a menu of many highly-crafted tracks is served on small-time, square blocks of wood.

LX mill The former premises of a thread and fabrics corporation that now residences studios, barrooms, galleries and venue rooms, a stage for a diverse determine of happenings.

Shared workspaces Local incarnations of the shared London workspaces Second Home and Village Underground, which in different ways integrate high levels of architectural invention with culture programmes designed to revelled the creative and tech corporations they house.

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