It was decided to build CCB in 1988. The complex comprises a centre for temporary exhibitions which since 2006 has housed the Berardo Museum, a module with multipurpose rooms, an auditorium for symphonic music and opera performances and another geared to the performing arts, as well as a conference centre that hosted Portugal’s Presidency of the European Union in 1992. The building was designed by the architects Vittorio Gregotti (Italy) and Manuel Salgado (Portugal), today has a strong cultural programme and plays important part as a Conference Centre. It has been classified since 2002 as a monument of public interest.
An international architectural competition was held. 6 out of the 57 proposals received have been invited to develop a preliminary project. The selected proposal belonged to the architects consortium Vittorio Gregotti (Italy) and Manuel Salgado (Portugal). They designed the construction of five modules – Conference Centre, Performing Arts Centre, Exhibition Centre, Hotel Zone and Complementary Equipment. Only the first ones were raised, namely, the Conference Centre, the Performing Arts Centre and the Exhibition Centre.
The Conference Centre was conceived in order to support conferences and meetings of all nature or dimension. The building also includes the CCB general operation services, several stores, a restaurant, two bars and two parking areas, opened to the visitors.
The Performing Arts Centre is the core of the production and displaying of CCB cultural and artistic activities. The Performing Arts Centre is composed by three rooms of different dimensions, equipped to welcome diverse kind of shows: films, opera, ballet, theatre and music of any kind. The Main Auditorium holds 1429 seats, the Small Auditorium has a capacity of 348 seats and the Rehearsal Room holds 72 seats.
Finally, the Exhibition Centre is composed by a set of qualified areas, distributed along four galleries. These galleries display exhibitions of modern art, architecture, design and photography. Shops and a coffee shop complete this module, including also a place for the restoring and storage of pieces of art.
Since June 2007, the Exhibition Centre lodges the Foundation of Modern and Contemporary Art – Museum Collection Berardo.
With the project of the two remaining modules of the original plan currently under way, presently the CCB occupies a construction area of 97,000 sq meters, distributed along 60,000 sq meters and separated by two internal streets, connected by a pedestrian way, creating continuity with the Praça do Império outside. This building can be seen as a small city with gardens, lakes, bridges, slopes, and small hidden places, where the nobility of the Museum Square stands out.
Since 2002, the Centro Cultural de Belém has been classified as a monument of public interest, through Decree No. 5/2002, DR, 1.ª série-B, No. 42, of 19 February 2002, and is included in the Special Protection Area of the Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Belém.