The twelve-year gap between the fire at the Real Teatro de São João (1908) and the start of the new Teatro de São João (1920) was a window of opportunity that other theaters in the city did not neglect. All of them carried out improvement works, competing with each other to temporarily take the place of the only “first-order theater” in the city. The Teatro Carlos Alberto was one of them. Its name evokes the king of Sardinia who died in exile in Porto in 1849, and who had been welcomed in the Palace of Barão do Valado, in whose garden the theater was built on the initiative of Manuel da Silva Neves.
Opened on October 14, 1897, it was from the start a space dedicated to the presentation of popular shows: from travelling circus to operetta, from music hall to cinema. At a time when it was almost exclusively dedicated to the screening of films, the Secretary of State for Culture decided to rent it in the late 1970s.
The Auditório Nacional Carlos Alberto opened its doors on September 29, 1980, and began to host a more diversified program, an adventure that would end in March 2000 with a party suggestively entitled DesANCA - Systematic Destruction of the Carlos Alberto National Auditorium.
With the approach of the European Capital of Culture event, the building was acquired by Sociedade Porto 2001. Maintaining its symbolic value and updating its tradition of use were the challenges assumed by the project signed by the architect Nuno Lacerda Lopes. As place of culture with a strong presence in the collective memory of the city, a place of diversified scale was developed by the project, with spaces that are markedly vertical in comparison with others that are exceptionally horizontal, suggesting bodies with opaque and solid materials in opposition to the transparency and dematerialization of others, where the stage and the audience merge, and the lost spaces, now conquered as foyers, work as an extension of an old and narrow street that becomes a square in this interior.
The introduction of new elements is functionally distinguished by the use of different materials - from the wooden body of the administration, to the glass box for public experience, and the concrete cobblestone that ensures vertical circulation through the elevator box - that do not neglect the base structure and provoke the necessary image of aesthetic attitudes meeting and crossing in an invitation for an intersection between the architectural language and scenographic expression. After a troubled process of advances and setbacks, the renovated Teatro Carlos Alberto was finally returned to the city on the night of September 15, 2003.