The Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria Nacional (East Tower Gallery of the National Ropework Factory), located by the river front near Belém, is part of an area of great historical and heritage value, one of the first industrialised areas of Lisbon. The Cordoaria Nacional was established as a large manufacturing facility for products essential to maritime activities. The building dates from the 1770s when, by order of the then Prime Minister Marquês de Pombal, the construction of the Royal Ropework Factory was decreed for the lands adjoining the Fort of São João da Junqueira.
Following a project attributed to the architect Reinaldo Manuel dos Santos, the building plan distributed the various functional spaces in a modular way, highlighting the long central body running parallel to the river, where the cordage workshop was installed. Adjacent areas featured sections for dyeing, starching, spinning, rigging, tailoring, weaving and the production of flags and cleaning materials, as well as support spaces for carpentry, locksmithing and administration. After a flourishing start, manufacturing activity slowed and the import of cordage was prohibited to give a new boost to production. In 1902, the School of Tropical Medicine was established in one part of the building and renamed the Institute of Tropical Medicine in 1937.
The Torreão Nascente da Cordoaria Nacional, with around 1,250 m2 of exhibition space, was established in 1995 through a protocol between the Portuguese Navy and the Lisbon City Council (CML). The Municipal Galleries have organised exhibitions in this space since 2003. A bookshop installed on site makes publications related to the exhibition projects of the Municipal Galleries available to the public.