What is the origin of the Bandstands of Lisbon and what is their role in the city life? Why have they begun to slip into decline? How many still remain? Let’s find out!
Summer is a time of festivities, of living the streets and open spaces. But festivities are incomplete without music. Music is on the streets of Lisbon in rock, jazz, fado and in classical music festivals, covering all different sounds and types of public. For this events are generally set up temporary stages, equipped with all types of today’s technology.
In this sense, what is the role of the bandstands? Do those curious structures that we can find spread over the city still have use?
We can say that. In truth, the bandstands are still used in our festivities and one-off events, but above all, are memory and reference points of the citizens.
Currently, there are 10 bandstands of Lisbon, but they used to be more than 20. Many of them were demolished because they were degraded, because they had no use anymore or because the space around it suffered urbanistic changes and its place stopped making sense.
Origin and Typology of the Bandstands
The bandstands are an elevated structure, a stage that is almost always covered, that allows the public to stand around it, destined to the performances of musical groups.
Just like the kiosks, it is an equipment that derives from Kiosco, of Persian origin. A simple covered construction, usually built in the back of gardens or in an elevated place where you could enjoy a good view. It was a place of rest where you could enjoy the shade it provided or be protected from a sudden rain, what today we would call a pergola.
The bandstands were implanted in gardens and squares and offered the public free concerts on the weekends, constituting a leisure programme where you can enjoy nature.
The base of these constructions was generally hollow and built with masonry. It allowed the creation of a storage space to store chairs for the public and musicians, shelves and other material, as well as gardening tools used in the maintenance of the surrounding space.
When it comes to aesthetics, the oriental taste of the origin of the bandstands, which was in vogue and associated to the emergence of design and modern architecture of iron, predominated.
Mobile and Fixed Bandstands
In the end of the 18th century, the bandstands started by being ephemeral structures that were built during the seasonal festivities or important events.
They were built in materials that were more perishable, such as wood, and the textiles and decorations were substituted according to the event.
Whether it was a popular festivity like the arraiais, fairs and pilgrimages; or an official event like the visits of the heads of state, commemorations or exhibitions, the bandstands were a highlight.
The fixed equipment emerged associated to the period of development and expansion of the cities, in the end of the 19th century, being part of the equipment of the new urban projects. Bandstands, street lamps, fountains, benches, urinals and public toilets, kiosks and security fencing, served the population and regulated the public space.
The first fixed bandstand of Lisbon was built in Passeio Público in 1848, a walled garden that marked the north limit of the city. It was demolished in 1884 due to the opening of Avenida da Liberdade that allowed the expansion of the city.
Political and Social Context
As mentioned before, the emergence of bandstands dates back to the 18th century, but its role only gained importance in the following century. Somewhat across Europe, it translates the taste and mentality of a post-revolutionary, liberal and democratic period.
The politicians and patrons of the end of the 19th century and of the beginning of the 20th century supported the culture in public spaces, promoting new ludic activities, education and social equality. Music had a fundamental role in this aim, and started being present in all types of events.
While the bands performed in the bandstands, the public didn’t have any conventions. On the street, they could be sitting down or standing, dancing or walking around. The bands, military or philharmonic, would play their adaptations of classical music, for everyone to listen. In the communities, the elements of the philharmonic, constituted by different social strata, socialised, being their differences attenuated by the adoption of the uniform.
To sum up, the bandstands are linked to the idea of liberty and democratization of culture, the objectives of the revolutionary and republican ideals.
Its decline, in the 20th century, is related to the period of world conflicts and the emergence of totalitarian regimes associated with the emergence of the radio and later, of the television. These new means of communication and different ways of listening to music have provided a more private and individual attitude.
In Portugal, liberalism was affected during the Estado Novo (nationalist corporatist authoritarian regime installed in Portugal from 1933 to 1974). The policies of isolation and the Portuguese Colonial War created an adverse environment to the organisation of festivities. The youth that usually characterized the elements of the bands were divided between emigration and the Colonial War.
In the 80’s and 90’s, several bandstands were built in Lisbon. This practice reflected the consolidation of the democratic regime and the interest in promoting local cultural initiatives. Therefore, the bandstand emerged as a public aggregator of communities.
The 10 Bandstands of Lisbon
It’s time to get to know the 10 bandstands of Lisbon.
Bandstand of Estrela Garden
This bandstand was originally located in the garden of Avenida da Liberdade, in the block in front of Rua Rosa Araújo. Inaugurated in August 15, 1894 it remained there until 1935.
With the increase of traffic and the more commercial occupation of the avenue, the bandstand stopped attracting public at the weekend. It was then dismantled and rebuilt in Estrela Garden, where it still stands today.
It was designed by José Luís Monteiro, an architect of French training who was also responsible for the Rossio Station’s nave, among other reference pieces.
In French style, it is the largest and, arguably, the most beautiful of the Bandstands of Lisbon.
Bandstand of Viscondessa dos Olivais Square
From an unknown author, inaugurated in 1896, it is the bandstand with the oldest and simplest typology, with a square base in brick and masonry. There is no doubt as to its function, seeing that two crossed liras are visible in the four sided hipped roof top, built in wood and plate.
Bandstand of José Fontana Square
Inserted in the urban area of Avenidas Novas, it is located in Henrique Lopes de Mendonça Garden, which was built in the late 80’s of the 19th century.
Here existed a former bandstand built in 1863, demolished in 1909 due to the construction of the Liceu Camões (Camões High School).
It was then approved in 1912 the construction of this new bandstand, a project by José Alexandre Soares, an architect and also a research fellow in Paris and student of José Luís Monteiro. It has dimensions and characteristics very similar to the one of Estrela Garden.
Bandstand of Carnide
Situated in the Coreto Square, it marks the historic centre of Carnide.
In April 1929, its inauguration coincided with the activation of the tram line 13 that brought this zone closer to the centre of Lisbon.
With the strong cyclone of 1941, the bandstand lost its roof top, having only got a new one in 1984, with the authorship of the architect João Parrinha.
Bandstand of Olival no Beato Square
This bandstand is located in a zone that was strongly industrialised in the end of the 19th century, East Lisbon. In 1894 was created the Sociedade Musical União do Beato that promoted outdoor concerts. But it was not until 1957, the year of the commemoration of 63 years of existence of the band, which was then inactive, that the City Council of Lisbon approved the construction of a bandstand. This is a very simple one, in reinforced concrete, without a roof top and whose steel grating seems to be recent.
Bandstand of the Zoo
It is located in the place of a very old one, ordered built by the Count of Farrobo, the then owner of the farm of the Laranjeiras, in 1841. It was without a doubt a curious construction regrettably demolished in 1935, given the advanced state of degradation, and replaced by a wooden platform.
The current bandstand was built in 1988 and is situated in the free access area of the Lisbon Zoo. It has an octagonal base and each side is covered with tiles that have motifs related to the wildlife.
Bandstand of Parada Garden, Campo de Ourique
It would be surprising if Teófilo Braga Garden or Parada Garden wasn’t equipped for a long time now with a fixed bandstand. In this neighbourhood Campo de Ourique, built in the end of the 19th century, ideologically connoted with republican ideals, it would make sense that there was a bandstand in the centre of its emblematic garden.
However, we do not have any information prior to the current bandstand, which certainly isn’t prior to 1987, since it isn’t registered in the book Os Quiosques de Lisboa (The Kiosks of Lisbon) by Baltazar Matos Caeiro.
Coreto of Campo das Amoreiras Garden, Charneca
Located in a large garden, near the headquarters of the Banda Musical e Artística da Charneca (Musical and Artistic Band of Charneca), of the Parish Council of Charneca and of the magnificent Quinta Alegre, the bandstand was built around the 90’s.
When it was remodelled in 2001, the tiles of the ceramist José João Gonçalves were added. In them, we can observe representations of locals of the parish and another one of the bandstands of Lisbon, the one of the Galinheiras Square, and a verse by José Carlos Ary dos Santos.
Bandstand of Galinheiras Square
Situated in a more peripheral and multicultural neighbourhood, this bandstand built in the 90’s is a landmark of the place’s identity; a meeting point for cultures and the development of activities aimed to promote social interaction among the population.
Bandstand of Condado Neighbourhood in Marvila
Built as an initiative of the City Council of Lisbon in the late 1990s, it is, just like the previous one, a municipal equipment that aims to contribute to the creation of the identity of a community.