In Lisbon, the church of São Domingos has been preserved with its cracked and damaged columns and stonework reflecting on its chequered history, most recently that, in part due to clever engineering when rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, it survived being completely gutted by fire in 1959. The former headquarters of the the Banco National Ultramarino (BNU) which merged into the Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) also lies empty and gutted, but structually sound, perhaps a reflection on the rise and fall of the banking sector, but today providing an opportunity to house Lisbon’s Design and Fashion Museum (MUDE), the sharp stylish colourful examples of classic design from 1937 onwards contrasting with the rough exposed concrete of the stripped-out interiors of the former banking HQ.
The Museum which was originally located in the Belem Cultural Centre and now also includes Francisco Capelo’s collection of fashion has furniture, lighting, glass, ceramics and jewellery by around 230 designers including Phillipe Starck, Charles Eames, George Nelson, Arne Jacobsen, Paul Henningsen, Vener Panton and Tom Dixon, covering the major trends in design from around the world over the last 80 years with a permanent display on the ground floor and temporary exhibitions on the first floor.
In 1866 BNU moved its headquarters to the building located in the corner of Rua do Comércio and Rua da Prata, becoming one of the first banks to contribute to the development of the Baixa Pombalina as a financial district. Over the next century, the bank acquired adjacent plots until it owned the complete block and carried out major refurbishments and redevelopments, primarily in the 1920’s under the architect Tertuliano Marques (1883-1942) and between 1951 and 1972 to designs of Cristino da Silva (1896-1976), the major Portuguese Modernist architect. However, a planned modernisation project of 2001 designed by Dante Macedo and Conceição Macedo after the merger of BNU with Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) was stopped in 2004, with most of the interiors having been stripped out and the building remained vacant apart from safe deposit boxes that remained in use until the end of 2010.
Today, the structural and architectural form of the main banking space remains, along with the stylish reception counters, with the finishes stripped out and new exhibition lighting inserted to provide a backcloth to the displays of design and fashion which are interwoven chronologically. Will this contrast last, or will a future director be temped to carry out a full-blown refurbishment with new interiors?