Lisbon’s coach catastrophe

Coach hall at Lisbon's former Museu dos Coches. (dreamwishes.com)

Hall of coaches at Lisbon’s former Museu Nacional dos Coches. (dreamwishes.com)

Malcolm Millais, author of the explosive Exploding the Myths of Modern Architecture (2009) sends sad news from Portugal. Lisbon’s delightful and elegant Coach Museum, long the nation’s most popular museum, had been housed in a perfectly lovely building of impeccable royal lineage. It has now been relocated into a typical abomination of modern architecture, designed specifically to fly in the face of all that is Portugal.

The old Coach Museum. (top10portugal.com)

The old Coach Museum. (top10portugal.com)

An old coach at the old Coach Museum. (ie.picclick.com)

An old coach at the old Coach Museum. (ie.picclick.com)

New home of Coach Museum. (oldportuguesestuff.com)

New home of Coach Museum. (oldportuguesestuff.com)

Lisbon. (telegraph.co.uk)

Lisbon. (telegraph.co.uk)

Malcolm says he has no idea why they made the switch, but he and I can speculate with relative security. Leaders in Lisbon wanted to get on the celebrity-architect gravy train. I am not suggesting any sort of peculation – though I have no proof it did not take place. I posit only corruption of the soul. For what can be worse than the modern architect who brazenly plops an icon of ugliness in a beloved place but the elected leader who permits such a crime to happen in his own beloved city?

Malcolm also says he has no idea why the Coach Museum of old was so popular. I would go beyond suggesting that it was in a beautiful building: I imagine it was popular because people who own cars today are probably fascinated by the transportation types used by the celebrities of Portugal’s history, including monarchs and aristocrats.

Like the building they occupied for so long, the coaches of Portugal were built by generations of proud artists established in a grand craft that has now disappeared. As the craft of automaking declines, it must be a heady experience to nose around among the ornate carriages whose raison d’etre disappeared so suddenly – along with the buggy-whip factory – leaving an entire industry without enough time to decline and moulder into the sort of pathetic excuse for craftmanship that we see in so many industries today, not excluding that of automobile manufacture.

I wrote a blog post in 2013 about the multiplicity of idiocies involved in the betrayal of the Coach Museum. Malcolm says its director opposed the change – but apparently not strenuously enough to resign, as she is still its director now that the new facility has opened.

Wish I could reprint that post, but the Journal, after laying me off last year, refused to save or give me access to my hundreds of posts written for the Journal version of the blog, which was instituted in 2009. But here is the opening passage of the raspberry I gave to Lisbon for that year:

• A raspberry to Lisbon for planning to move its beloved coach museum, the Museu Nacional dos Coches, from its graceful home at a 1787 royal palace to what looks like a parking garage. One mustn’t blame the pathetic architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha (a Pritzker Prize winner, naturally). He is a hired gun. The… [here’s where the Journal’s archive summary leaves off, where I went on to say it was those who hired him who are the real villains here.]

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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69 Responses to Lisbon’s coach catastrophe

  1. Pingback: Lisbon’s new coach museum | Architecture Here and There

  2. Pingback: A DESTRUIÇÃO DE LISBOA (00005) – O Espalha Brasas

  3. Anonymous says:

    Achei muito cultural o modo como este tema evoluiu para uma discussão muito intelectual e como ficamos bem elucidados sobre os dicionários inglês e português! Um e outro com muitas palavras e trocas de ideias super agradáveis! Realmente para q dar opinião e ser insultado ?!

    Like

  4. Dear David Brussat,

    You should illustrate your post with some pictures of the inside of the new garage, sorry, museum. Here you have two photos:

    Isn’t it lovely?

    Like

    • Carlos Machado says:

      As I believe to have read, the new museum building is not yet completely ready and will get improved over the next months or so. I concede it’s ugly nevertheless!;-)

      Like

  5. LF Santana says:

    What is more amazing is that they spend 35 million euro (about 40M USD) in this new building (it’s simply a wearhouse!) and I wonder how and where? Portugal is an amazing country…

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Welcome to Portugal…

      Like

    • I have read all of the apologia for the new coach museum building with interest, and I grant that the old museum required substantial upgrading. $40 million worth? I seriously doubt it. And if a new building really needed to be built, did it have to be so ridiculously ugly? I don’t think so. Glad the old building is to be used for its original equine purpose, but Lisbon still has got another horrid building it could have done without, and which sticks the beauty and traditions of a great nation in the eye. Not a good deal for Lisbon or Portugal.

      Like

  6. Luís França says:

    Dear David Brussat,
    Have you seen the new building? Have you been there yet?
    Do you think it is fair to talk about a building without ever actually being there?
    I’m not the greatest fan of the new building, but I can assure you it is better now than it was in the Palácio de Belém. Unlike you, I don’t have anything against modern architecture. What I don’t like is bad architecture. And it is easy to find bad architecture with a few days, a few years or a few centuries. I don’t think this is the case.
    The Museu dos Coches, strangely enough, is the most visited museum in Portugal. So it only seems natural to improve visitors experience.

    Like

    • Goncalo Silva says:

      I do agree with you David Brussat the building is “ridiculous ugly” and the author will ever be able to improve visitors experience cause is trully calls himself “anormal”. Like John Keats said “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”, we are talking about Coaches design by Carlo Fontana aprentice from Gian Lorenzo Bernini

      Like

  7. The point of a museum is display and educate. The old venue looks like a run down garage (albeit pretty). There is no room and there is no much difference between this and Rod’s Stewart Ferrari collection covered with blankets.
    Now we have a fantastic new building, built for purpose and finally the coaches history can be properly told and most importantly, properly learnt.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      `sorry dude WE PORTUGUESE PEOPLE are still fuckin retarded and the proof is you are trying to cover up something ridiculous with a general excuse… THE NEW BUILDING IS FUCKIN HORRIBLE, what happen to preserve history? its people like you that allow this type of shit to happen… SAD TO SAY THE LEAST!!

      Like

      • We Portuguese people? Deves ser mesmo português oh meu atrasado mental. Quem és tu para dizer algo sobre arquitectura? A avaliar pelo vocabulário nem o jogo de galo deves saber desenhar quanto mais mandar bitaites em relação a museus e a sua construção e utilidade. Não sei o que deves ter visto mais se museus se coches mas acho que o total é ZERO. Quando conseguires distinguir um museu de um curral volta a falar aqui oh boi! Boi para não te chamar burro… oops nãe é que chamei mesmo.

        Like

        • Jose de São Marcos says:

          Extraordinária prova de cultura, seu camelo! Acha que isso é forma de responder.

          Like

          • Oh meu dromedário de monobossa mas provavelmente na carola… então não sabe ler o inglês praguejante, gritante eignorante do Sr. Anónimo? A resposta até foi muito comedida por sinal… e o São Marcos se bai pela mesma bitola leva exactamente o mesmo tratamento. Vá lá dar mais uma voltinha às piramides agora…

            Like

        • Anonymous says:

          Realmente! Será q não podia ter respondido em inglês como começou? Assim ficava patente a nível internacional o bom “nível” português usado em casa e não para inglês ver!

          Like

        • Anonymous says:

          tu que das a entender ser uma pessoa culta sujaste-te todo com esse comentario seja mais educado e fale como gente

          Like

  8. antonio says:

    The old museum building was made to be a horse riding school, not to be a museum, the old building doesn’t have all the conditions to be a museum … so there his now a new building. …

    Like

    • Maria Gearhart says:

      Exactly! I don’t know and haven’t been to the new building that houses the Museum but I know that one of the reasons of having to re-locate it was to preserve the coaches itself from further deteriorating as the old horse barn of the Palace has obviously no conditions whatosever, including high humidity levels.

      Like

  9. Jimmie says:

    “Malcolm says he has no idea why they made the switch, but he and I can speculate with relative security. Leaders in Lisbon wanted to get on the celebrity-architect gravy train”

    Actually the new museum was made because the old one didn’t have enough room for all the collection, was in decay and also had no room for suporting structures (reapair room, cafeteria, etc, etc).

    If your article starts by you admiting to not know anything about the situation you should probably rethink posting it.

    Like

    • Go bathe the dog,you sucker..(vai dar banho ao cão, seu xuxa!) says:

      Well, i know something about it! they moved from a beautiful place that needed some maitainance to a new building (that i personally dont like that much) that still doesnt have cafeteria, that is not even finished, it costed 40 million euros (60% over the initial budget AND some cuts had to be made so it wouldnt cost more). The author was wrong and your wrong too..it was built as a part of the big spender’s plan, known as the socialist party, that likes to spend money on things that we really dont need..aaahhh one more things, they did have a repair room and it was on tv, like a month ago, a documentary about the museum and the man who repairs the carriages…and he was working within the museum..aaahhh and not having all your collection exposed at once is a way to make locals come more often and the old museum was also a point of interest..so maybe, instead of critizing a an objective reporter maybe you should, in good portugues, chatear o camões…

      Like

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sweden is wonderfull!
    Sweden is the best place on earth!
    If so, WTF was this punk doing in Lisbon?
    Stay in Sweden, mister whatever and what not!
    If a Portuguese would criticize the Swedish society, a lot of issues would be raised against that person.

    Pessoal, abram os olhos! É ridículo um gajo sueco vir mandar bitaites agressivos sobre o nosso país. Se fosse o contrário, i.e. alguém de Portugal na Suécia a criticar o Museu da Volvo, no ano de 2090, mesmo que tivesse razão, ninguém na sociedade sueca lhe ia dar verdadeira atenção, sem cinismos. E o mesmo aconteceria hoje, claro…

    É uma humilhação o que esse banana está a fazer.
    O edifício podia ser assim, assado, cozido, frito? Podia.
    Mas isso, cabe aos portugueses e portuguesas opinar, pois está encaixado na nossa paisagem.

    Não dêm ouvidos a alguém que nem sequer conhece a narrativa social portuguesa.
    Coitadinhos dos Suecos, quem lhes dera ter o sol, a diversidade e o mar de cá.

    Wake up!

    Like

    • Joao M. says:

      Abre tu os olhos!
      Uma vergonha é um estrangeiro vir denunciar esta situação, quando deviam ser os portugueses a se importar com a sua cultura!
      O que ele diz é que o Museu estava num palácio lindíssimo e passou para um moderno e tosco edifício e que perdeu toda a sua beleza que tinha…
      “the Museu Nacional dos Coches, from its graceful home at a 1787 royal palace to what looks like a parking garage”

      Mas o que mais importa neste país é assistir aos jogos de futebol do benfica/sporting/porto e ver a Casa dos Segredos…

      A culpa disto nada mais é do que de governos corruptos e oportunistas e portugueses burros e ignorantes que só pensam no seu umbigo!

      Like

    • Nonia Maria says:

      É ridiculo o seu comentário. Destruiram a beleza do Museu dos Coches. Ficou sem magia. Ainda bem que há quem denuncie esta desgraça!

      Like

    • Nico says:

      Granda palhaço haveria que ser para achar que o que está errado aqui é a nacionalidade do homem. Há gente que só nasceu para consumir oxigénio…

      Like

    • bfj says:

      What does Sweden have to do with this?

      Like

  11. Hugo Martins says:

    I haven’t visited the old one I lost the chance for several times, I am not sure if anytime I will visit the new one. It’s a pity…

    Like

  12. mario sampaio says:

    The real deal is that to move the coches to the new huge bathroom they will have to spend further millions in order to climatize and protect from ir and uv, sounds like glass cages to me, what a joke!
    ms

    Like

  13. I never visited the old museum and I’ve only seen it in photos. I have, however visited the new one. The new building is ugly, has nothing to do with the surrounding architecture, has poor lighting conditions, the information about the coaches is scarce (to say the least) and the walls are bare, apart from a few props like the official clothing for the king’s drivers and some clothes worn by the last King of Portugal when he was 12.

    Like

  14. Luis Amaral says:

    Yes! This is supposed to be a high-tech building, construction or whatever you name it!
    Now… I wonder if one should consider it Architecture at all.
    And/or… One must start questioning about what is (and should be) Architecture in XXI century.

    Like

  15. Gonçalo Cabral says:

    The previous building was too much small for the collection. Coaches were piled on to each other. Actually, part of the collection was in Vila Viçosa for lack of space. The natural light was scarce too. Summing up, the coaches deserved better. I have yet to visit the new building but I believe it can provide a better space and better light to appreciate all the coaches. Moreover, if the previous building really becomes the seat of the Portuguese Riding School, it would be fantastic. The building was in fact the riding arena of the Belém Palace before the museum was created.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      The new museus is something that only figures to de architect…
      The rest of colectivos will continue in Vila Viçosa! Thanks God for that.
      Teres only a way This museus can be sabe; with a verr God graphic design team, not The one to whom they pay to do The new image.

      Like

  16. Carlos Tavares says:

    The beautiful old museum had an unique period atmosphere:

    Like

  17. Pedro Escarpetim says:

    I don’t like the new building, but if what I heard or read at the time they announced it is to happen, all is worth. The old quarters of the museum are to host part of the National Equestrian School. Since this will restore the building to it’s original purpose, which is to be a place for horse riding, I’m all for it!

    Like

  18. Maria da Luz Taquenho says:

    Honestly, I was happy to have the coaches shown in a Modern enviroment , ascetic and clean, I am not ‘ in love !’ with the new building, I have doubts about it’s architectural merits, it is certainly not beautifull. I my humble but very decided opinion. Having said that , we have now two beatifull new atractions, the coaches and the old coach museum ( which should house a wonderfull exhibition of modern artists ), a blend of past, which tempered the NOW.

    It is still about Portuguese Culture. Who is interested in political messes ?

    Like

  19. Ignorance is worst of the things, as a post that doesn’t say’s nothing about architecture as the writer is an ignorant in that matter. People that like to say bad thing’s about others work without knowing what’s going on the dynamics of the city. I think you’ve not been there in the first place. Paulo Mendes da Rocha did a very good job, as the “Picadeiro” was lent temporarely for keeping the coaches. All that makes one of the best turistical spots in the city. There you’ve dozens of infrastructures for keeping tourists happy for a long time: Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, 1st top visited monument (722.758 visitors|, Museu dos Coches 4nd top (189.015|, Torre de Belem (2nd top visit|, CCB, Marine Museum, Planetarium, Marina, Big gardens, President’s Palace, etc.

    The polemics must be understood in the going on about the new elections. Also, such an infrastructure was made to be related to each others renewing the local. Many of the coaches are dispersed and need a local with conditions for their manutention (Núcleo do Museu dos Coches em Vila Viçosa|. Polemics are good when we have ground to talk about what we know.

    Like

    • Maria says:

      Apparently, you are the only one who agrees with the move. And before calling someone ignorant, check your spelling.

      Like

      • Maria da Luz Taquenho says:

        He doesn’t have to know how to spell in English. He is Portuguese, proud, and has no obligation at ALL to speak and write English properly. I’m with him, being half and half.

        Like

        • Carlos Machado says:

          Then he should stick to what he knows and write in Portuguese. I wouldn’t appreciate some one misusing the Portuguese language either. But of course that is not the main issue here. It’s the architectural value of the new building as an alternative to the old one for this purpose.

          Like

        • Nonia Maria says:

          Anyone who attempts to write in a foreign language must do it right. Maria you sound like an idiot with that point of view.

          Like

      • Gvw G Lewis says:

        Stupid pompous cow! He has no obligation to spell correctly in English!

        Like

        • Nonia Maria says:

          And another idiot here. This idiot thinks he can call women cows. People that like to offend others with different opinions.

          Like

          • Cara Boba Maria: a idiota aqui é a senhora. Peço desculpa não ter escrito isto em inglês, mas me sinto na obrigação de gastar dinheiro a contratar os serviços de um tradutor… imagine se eu dou um erro em inglês… cairia o Carmo e a Trindade. Desde quando é que alguem quhe tente expressar-se noutra lingua tem que faze-lo de maneira imaculada se nem os nativos falam 100% de acordo com as regras gramaticais? Permita-me então imaginar que a senhora é uma rata de gabinete, que só manda um pio depois de consultar todas as gramaticas e dicionarios. Passe bem!

            Like

          • Moreover, it was you who first offended other calling “idiot” to Maria da Luz Taquenho. So why not call you as a “cow”. It looks me perfectly correct.

            Like

    • Some random Portuguese person says:

      Funny… When people say their opinion about something that doesn’t agree with the current political parties, it’s because there are elections coming or because they’re from the opposition.

      1-The new building is horrible and ugly.
      2-There is corruption in Portugal and everybody knows it.
      3-People have their own opinions despite political views.

      Like

  20. Shelly says:

    The beauty of the coach museum was not only the coaches but the lovely building itself. I am so happy I was able to visit before the move. It seems the age of coaches and the charm of the time an history will be lost in a blank slated building. You could feel the histrory there and wondered about who was walking the halls – the events – the marvel of the historic building I loved almost more than then coaches. The ceiling in particular.

    Tragic mistake for Lisbon and its tourism.

    Like

    • JG says:

      Well, the old building will be part of the new museum also. I don’t like the new building either (and I live in Lisbon) but you’ll still be able to visit the old one, as an extension of the exhibition. It has not been abandoned, it was more of an enlargement of the museum, allowing to show more of the Coach collection.
      You can read it all here (in Portuguese, but try an on-line translator for an idea of the text):
      http://museudoscoches.pt/pt/museu/#edificios2

      Like

  21. Carlos Gomes Pinto says:

    Cannot agree more. They moved the Museum to a new building that is not more then a ware house.
    The displays are poorly identified and the all thing is a mess. .There is not even any markings for you to follow the displays according to date or any logical order. Empty White walls that show nothing.
    The new museum is a display of lack of vision, bad taste and public servants attitute or lack of it.

    Like

  22. ” A raspberry to Lisbon for planning to move Portugal’s beloved coach museum, the Museu Nacional dos Coches, from its graceful home at a 1787 royal palace to what looks like a parking garage. One mustn’t blame the pathetic architect, Paulo Mendes da Rocha (a Pritzker Prize winner, naturally). He is a hired gun. The officials who hired him are to blame; so is the public for not raising enough of a stink to stop the project. But the recession has stopped it, for now. Why must beauty’s survival rely so often on local or national poverty? ”
    I believe this to be the full “raspberry” http://www.providencejournal.com/article/20140128/Opinion/301289868

    The original “Museu dos coches” wil still have on display a few “coches” , and it was not a royal palace but a “picadeiro”, Horse riding arena, that was a part of the palace.

    “O novo Museu dos Coches vai abrir sem a exposição completamente montada”, The new “Museu dos coches” will open without a completely finished exhibition.
    http://www.publico.pt/culturaipsilon/noticia/o-novo-museu-dos-coches-vai-abrir-sem-a-exposicao-completamente-montada-1695280

    “No Museu dos Coches quando não se sabe o que se vê, inventa-se” . At “Museu dos coches” if you do not know what you are seeing, just guess.
    http://www.publico.pt/culturaipsilon/noticia/no-museu-dos-coches-quando-nao-se-sabe-o-que-se-ve-inventase-1696640
    An outrageous lack of museography.

    Bad building, bad timing, bad…everything…

    Best regards,

    Like

  23. A perfect picture of portuguese politics & politicians. Thank you, David Brussat (and yes, there is peculation on it, for sure – 40 million € to build that stupid warehouse???…)

    Like

  24. Ana says:

    Unbelievable that this move took place. What are they going to use the old building for now? They better not destroy it! How can they place centuries of history into an aberration of a modern building?

    Like

  25. Bartolomeu Macedo says:

    She, the director , has bills to pay and a family to take care ….

    Like

  26. Reblogged this on Architecture Here and There and commented:

    Readers in Portugal and elsewhere who are enjoying my post about the Coach Museum in Lisbon might also enjoy the post published after it on the two horse-racing trophies, and the two previous posts, “7 brides for 7 buttheads” about bad architects defending bad architecture, and “Allan Greenberg’s classicism,” about the ongoing classical revival – a trend that would reinstate the old Coach Museum and (at least I think it should) dynamite the new Coach Museum.

    Like

    • Jose de São Marcos says:

      Um novo museu era certamente necesssário, mas isso não é suficiente para explicar a falta de qualidade do novo edíficio, que desde remendos no pavimento, escadas exiguas, elevadores avariados ( ainda não tem um mês de aberto ao público)etc, tem tudo do pior. Uma galeria patética, uma praça incompreensivel, nada que se identifique quer com Belém ou com a cidade, talvez num recinto de exposição, como um pavilhão, enfim não creio que tudo seja culpa do arquitecto, mas nada daquilo se pode aceitar sem critica.

      Like

  27. Anonymous says:

    Heart Breaking!

    Like

  28. Truly breathe taking portrait on the coach museum! Amazing!!

    Like

  29. Great photos of the Coach museum!

    Like

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