In the Alentejo, you travel naturally with and to History. The abundance and the quality of the Heritage which it expresses become easy for you to discover but, if you are visiting the Region for the first time, you could be spoiled for choice. If this is the case, don’t hesitate: opt for our suggestions and you will discover that the magic of the Alentejo is to be found, with endless pleasure, everywhere.
We are going to make a leap into our present times by way of the revivalism of the 19th century, the architecture in iron that accompanied the arrival of the railway in the interior, the modernism of the early 20th century and the heavy architecture that characterised the period of the so-called Estado Novo (New State) of the time of the dictatorship of Salazar.From these times we have the panels of tiles in the railway stations, places certainly worth visiting.
And a symbolic reference full of the future: in 1919 there was created in Évora the first civil association for the defence of heritage – the Grupo Pro-Évora – which, anticipating much later causes, stopped the walls of Évora from being dismantled, proposed the classification of dozens of monuments in the city and promoted the cleaning of the magnificent cloisters in the Cathedral, all at a time full of ruination.From the second half of the 20th century, a process of the urban rehabilitation of the historical centres was begun, which allows us today to have a live experience of an interesting alliance between the past and the contemporary.
The past was restored, monuments which otherwise would have been destroyed by time were provided with new functions, and also new work was undertaken. The sculptors of our times were invited to enhance the beauty of squares and gardens, renowned architects were and still are summoned to design work as disparate as new suburban areas, cultural installations, churches, adegas (wineries) or private houses. Essentially inspired by rural architecture, they embellished cities, towns and countryside (the last very conservative by nature) with buildings assuredly contemporary, minimalist, sober and well integrated into the landscape.
If you would like to appreciate some of this, take a look at the Bairro da Malugeira in Évora, (designed as social housing), and the Adega Mayor in Campo Maior, both designed by Siza Vieira; the Centro de Arte in Sines, from the Aires Mateus studio; the Mora Fluviarium, from the Promontório Arquitectos studio; the Adega da Herdade de Rocim, in Cuba, by Carlos Vitorino; or, completely unexpected in a tiny Alentejan village, the new Igreja Paroquial (parish church) of Albergaria dos Fusos, by Victor Figueiredo and Jorge Filipe Pinto.
These and many others, such as the sculptures of João Cutileiro in Évora, or the investment by Elvas in its Museu de Arte Cotemporânea – installed in an 18th century Baroque building – are signs of the times that should not be missed.